Thousands take fish medicine amid swine flu scare

June 8th, 2009 - 11:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, June 8 (IANS) With seven cases of the infectious swine flu being reported from this Andhra Pradesh capital, health authorities are worried about the congregation of thousands of asthma patients from around the country and even abroad who have gathered here to take a traditional fish medicine.
The Bathini Goud family, which has been distributing the free fish medicine for over 160 years, Monday started administering it at the sprawling Exhibition Grounds. The programme will continue Tuesday.

With this southern city already reporting seven confirmed cases of swine flu, the highest in the country, the authorities have sounded a word of caution.

Health department officials apprehended that the presence of even a single swine flu patient at such a congregation would result in the spreading of the disease.

“Swine flu is a communicable disease. Even if one person having symptoms of swine flu is present in such a big gathering of people, there is a possibility of the disease spreading to others. So, one needs to be very cautious,” said Shubhakar, coordinator of the swine flu nodal centre at the Government Chest Hospital here.

Principal Secretary (Health) L.V. Subrahmanyam, however, said there were absolutely no chances of a swine flu patient coming into the state without being screened.

“All those who are coming into the country from abroad are being screened,” he said.

Hyderabad has so far recorded seven cases of swine flu, but officials said there could be other cases that had not come to their notice.

Four of the seven cases were reported during the last three days. Alarmed over the increase in number of cases, the authorities have made screening of all passengers arriving at the airport mandatory.

Meanwhile, the popularity of fish medicine continued to wane with fewer people turning out for the annual event, which coincides with “Margasira” or the beginning of the monsoon.

About 300 members of Bathini Goud family are busy administering the drug. A yellow herbal paste, the ingredients of which have remained a family secret, is first put into a live three centimetre-long murrel fish and is then slipped down the throat of the patient. If taken for three successive years, the medicine is believed to cure asthma.

The family claims that in 1845, a holy man passed on the formula for the miracle medicine to their great-great-grandfather Veranna Goud, a toddy tapper, on the promise that he would distribute it free of cost and would never reveal the ingredients of the medicine to others.

Over the last few years, the number of asthma patients have come down due to a campaign by physicians and rationalists, who termed it an “unscientific” drug and asked the family to reveal the contents of the herbal paste.

The family, however, turned down the demand on the ground that the medicine would lose its efficacy. Following the controversy, the Goud family renamed the event as “fish prasadam” five years ago and said those having faith in the medicine would continue to take it.

The family expects that over 100,000 people will take the “fish prasadam” this year but the turnout is not likely to cross 50,000.

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