841 people have died in the country due to swine flu since January 1 this year, which is a matter of “great concern” and the situation is being monitored closely, the government told Parliament on Tuesday.
Making a statement, Health Minister J P Nadda said from January 1 till February 22, the number of swine flu cases reported by the states stand at 14673.
“The number of deaths for the same period are 841,” he said.
The Minister rejected suggestions about shortages of Oseltamivir, drug used for treating Influenza A H1N1 or swine flu, and said it is manufactured in India.
“We have held meetings with the manufacturers on two occasions. These indigenous manufacturers have confirmed that they have sufficient capacity and stock of active pharmaceutical ingredients to meet requirements,” he said.
He said the drug, however, cannot be sold over the counter and has to be made available only against prescription and sold through a chemist with license under Schedule X of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
“We cannot afford a situation where due to irrational use of the drug, resistance is developed, rendering the drug incapable of fighting the virus. However, to ensure that general public requiring the drug does not face any inconvenience, we have advised the state governments to review the locations of the Schedule X pharmacies and issue fresh licenses for under-represented or not represented locations,” he said.
Nadda said his ministry is closely monitoring the situation and is in regular contact with the affected states.
“...to prevent transmission of the disease to the healthcare workers who come in contact with patients, N-95 masks and Personal Protective Equipment are required. We are, on a regular basis, ascertaining from the state governments regarding the stock position...We have already supplied to the affected states 58,000 capsules of Oseltamivir, 3000 N-95 masks and 9500 Personal Protective Equipment,” he said. A senior WHO official said the seasonal influenza wasquite normal at this time of the year and its India office was closely working with the government for dealing with the disease.
“We are working with the government on this to watch what is panning out in India. So far, there are no signs of the makings of a large outbreak. But we are watching carefully,” WHO Assistant Director General Flavia Bustreo told reporters here.
Nadda said the number of reported cases in 2009 were 27,236 and 20,604 in 2010. The number of deaths in 2009 were 981 and increased to 1763 in 2010.
According to Health Ministry data 937 cases were reported in 2014, 218 had died of the disease. In 2013, 5,253 people were affected while 699 people lost their lives. In 2012, there were 405 casualties out of 5,044 reported cases.
The health minister also brushed aside reports that there were shortage of Oseltamivir drug, used for treating the disease and said it was being manufactured in India.
“We have held meetings with the manufacturers on two occasions. These indigenous manufacturers have confirmed that they have sufficient capacity and stock of active pharmaceutical ingredients to meet requirements. In fact, one of the manufacturers is a Central Public Sector Undertaking,” he said.
Nadda said his Ministry has already supplied 58,000 capsules of Oseltamivir, 3000 N-95 masks and 9500 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the affected states while it was also maintaining an emergency stock of Oseltamivir drug to meet any sudden requirement.
“In addition, we have in stock 10,000 N-95 masks and sufficient number of PPE. To guide and assist the state governments, teams from the Ministry have been sent to Telangana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh,” Nadda said.