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Panic spreads as swine flu deaths rise in India

Fatalities pass the 800 mark, lack of awareness stokes fears

Ritu Sharma, Delhi

Ritu Sharma, Delhi

Published: February 25, 2015 07:50 AM GMT

Updated: April 23, 2015 07:03 PM GMT

Panic spreads as swine flu deaths rise in India

An Indian medical staff member treats a swine flu patient at an isolation ward of the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad on January 23 (AFP Photo/Sam Panthaky) 


More than 800 people have died and further deaths are expected as India battles to contain a swine flu outbreak spreading across the country.

At least 14,000 cases have been reported since December last year, with western Gujarat and northern Rajasthan states the worst hit with over 200 deaths each.

Meanwhile, 100 fresh cases have been reported in the national capital Delhi this week and over 140 people have tested positive for swine flu in Jammu and Kashmir.

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Federal Health Minister JP Nadda told parliament on Tuesday that affected states would receive all possible help to fight the virus.

“The situation is being closely monitored by us and all necessary assistance is being provided to the states. Adequate stocks of medicine and masks are available. No efforts will be spared to effectively deal with the situation,” he said.

Health officials say a lack of knowledge about the disease is helping stoke panic, which in turn presents a challenge for them.

“There is no doubt there is an outbreak of swine flu in the country but one should understand that swine flu is less dangerous than the common flu,” KK Aggarwal, secretary-general of the Indian Medical Association, told ucanews.com.

People need to be aware that swine flu does not kill but swine flu pneumonia does. People are not able to differentiate between the two, Aggarwal said.

“What is worrying is that due to the panic there is too much treatment, too many hospitalizations, excessive drug prescribing and investigations,” he added.

In Haryana state, the health department is training doctors to treat swine flu and has launched an awareness campaign about the disease through the media, said Shiv Kumar, chief medical officer in the state’s Rohtak district.

The district has had 11 cases of swine flu and only one person has died, he said.

The doctor said there are three categories of swine flu. About 90 percent of patients were suffering from Category A, which involved normal flu symptoms — coughing, runny nose, stomach ache and diarrhea — which are treated with the usual medicines.

Categories B and C involve symptoms such as a high fever, severe sore throat, respiratory problems and pneumonia.

Children, pregnant women, the elderly and people suffering from other major illnesses are most at risk, Kumar said.

The Indian Medical Association has written to the federal Ministry of Health and Family Welfare calling on it to warn medical practitioners to be careful when making their views on the virus public.

In case of outbreaks, only authorized people appointed by the government should be allowed to talk to the media in order to offset widespread panic, Aggarwal said.

“At the moment almost every doctor is speaking to the media, giving his/her views on swine flu. This should be restricted,” he added.

Swine flu, also known as the H1N1 virus, is transmitted from pigs to humans. It is very contagious and is transmitted from human to human like any other influenza.

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