Indians advised against travelling to swine flu hit nations (Lead)

April 27th, 2009 - 9:16 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 27 (IANS) India Monday asked its citizens to avoid “non-essential travel” to swine flu affected New Zealand, Mexico, the US, Canada, Spain, France and Britain, and has put in place scanning system for travellers coming from these countries.
The health ministry held a high-level meeting with experts from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to discuss the preparedness in the wake of the influenza that is spreading to other countries.

A health ministry official made it clear that India was free of the infection.

“There is no infection in India and all measures are being taken. We are dealing with the threat but not the disease,” said V.M. Katoch, director general ICMR, an apex body that promotes bio-medical research.

“We have stockpiled one million doses of Tamiflu — the only medicine that could be effective for flu. Two laboratories will be set up in Delhi and Pune to test suspected human samples of swine flu,” said Katoch told reporters.

Keeping in view the global scenario, the Indian government is stipulating a series of action that includes surveillance at ports and airports and monitoring through integrated disease surveillance units in all states

People have been asked to “defer non-essential travels” to the flu affected countries, Katoch said.

“The travellers coming from countries - New Zealand, Mexico, the US, Canada, Spain, France and Britain - will be quarantined and if detected with influenza like illness would be slotted and put on treatment,” said Vineet Chowdhury, joint secretary in the health ministry.

A team of doctors would work round the clock at international airports in India - Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Cochin, Jaipur and Goa - to screen travellers, especially those coming in from these countries.

The Delhi airport will have 32 doctors while number of doctors at other airports is yet to be decided.

“There would be a mandatory medical check-up at these airports,” said Chowdhury.

The health ministry has also sought details from the airports about people from these countries who have visited India in the past 10 days.

“We will track all the people who have visited India from these countries in the last 10 days.

“We have also issued directives to all international airlines to inform travellers coming to India about the screening process put in place in India. They (travellers) might be under the risk of the flu and may be put in hospital,” said Chowdhury.

“This is respiratory illness and does not spread by eating pork. The incubation period for the flu is seven days. All the arrangements will be in place within the next two days,” he added.

A round the clock call centre with a toll free number 1075 and another number 2391401 under Integrated Diseases Surveillance Project has been set up to attend calls from the public regarding reporting of influenza like illness.

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