Swine flu claimed 39 more lives as the death toll reached closer to the 1000 mark while the number of people affected with the H1N1 virus across the country crossed 17,000 on Thursday.
Ministry sources said 965 people have perished due to the disease while the total number of people affected with the seasonal influenza virus has crossed the 17,000 mark till the evening of February 25.
The Health Ministry had on Wednesday put the total number of deaths at 926 and the number of affected persons at 16,235.
Fresh cases were reported from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Nagaland and Bihar among other states.
The government meanwhile asserted it is “very serious” on combating the challenge and asked people not to panic but be alert as necessary arrangements are in place to deal with the situation.
Health Minister J P Nadda also termed the recent imposition of prohibitory orders disallowing gatherings in Ahmedabad district of Gujarat to prevent swine flu as a “precautionary” measure and a “strategy to control”.
The Health Ministry has asked all states to review the geographic locations of Schedule X chemists and issue fresh licence for unrepresented areas and to ensure availability of Osetamivir drug, used for treating the disease with them.
In the guidelines uploaded on the ministry’s website, details like epidemiology of seasonal influenza, action taken by government till February 24, technical guidelines, list of Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) laboratories, Information Education Communication (IEC) and list of outlets having schedule X license authorised to sell Oseltamivir formulation for swine flu have been given.
“The states have been asked to follow the risk categorisation followed during the Pandemic (Category A - mild cases: domiciliary care, no drug treatment, Category B - requires drug Oseltamivir, but no hospitalization - and Category C—requires drug treatment, testing and hospitalization).
“The protocol for categorisation and ventilator management of influenza cases have been reviewed and provided to all the states,” the ministry said.
“The government is very serious on the issue. It is taking all precautionary measures and trying to control it. We are doing whatever we can do to the best of our ability.
“We are supporting the state government. H1N1 virus is very much in the environment. What we have to do is to take protective measures and not to get panicked,” Nadda said on the sidelines of an event.
Noting that all government hospitals are well equipped and adequate number of medical kits and vaccines is available, he rubbished reports of shortage of vaccines in different states and said due to wrong news, a panic situation was being created.
An action taken report said that Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme and its state units have enhanced the surveillance for influenza like illness and severe acute respiratory infections.
Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana are doing active surveillance in the community to detect cases early, it said.
The Health Ministry has recommended vaccination for healthcare workers and a joint statement issued by Indian Medical Association and subject experts have reiterated the stand taken by the ministry that vaccination for public is not advocated as a public health strategy at this juncture to mitigate the impact of the current outbreak, it said.
“Radio spots would continue to be aired for the next 15 days. Visual media materials have been kept ready for roll out. The affected states have also been asked to scale up IEC activities,” it said.
As many as eight more people succumbed to swine flu in Gujarat, taking the death toll in the state to 247 and the total number of cases to 3,950.
A person died in West Bengal taking the toll to six while the number of affected people reached 100.
In Rajasthan, the assembly witnessed noisy scenes as the Opposition parties accused the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government of failing in containing the swine flu outbreak in the state and demanded resignation of Health Minister R S Rathore on moral grounds.
Congress’s chief whip Govind Singh Dotasar claimed at least 1,000 people had died of HIN1 virus in the state so far this year against the government’s figure of 243 deaths.
Nine more patients tested positive for swine flu in Kashmir, taking the number of affected people to 181.
Three more persons also tested positive in Bihar and while a person, who had come to Nagaland from Delhi four days ago, was found to be infected with the virus.