Only three cases of swine flu have been confirmed in Uttar Pradesh but panic over the spread of influenza A (H1N1) infection appeared to have gripped the country's most populous state on Monday.
Cabinet secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh has directed all 70 district magistrates to give
top priority to the control of swine flu.
In urban areas, people are arming themselves with masks.
"Our sale of masks has suddenly shot up since the media has publicised how masks can prevent the spread of infection," said Harish Agarwal, owner of a medicine shop.
Principal secretary (health) Pradeep Shukla said: "We have told doctors across the state to remain on their toes to detect and try to nip the problem in the bud. All hospitals and dispensaries are also being equipped with the necessary drugs, which are similar to those for any other flu. The difficult part is confirmation, for which we are initiating necessary measures."
However, even doctors attending to patients with swine flu symptoms fear catching the virus.
"We are exposed and prone to catching the virus. Sadly, there is no preventive method for us even though we are required to monitor suspected cases from very close quarters," said a senior physician of the state-run Balrampur Hospital.
The samples of 26 suspected cases have been collected by a team of expert micro-biologists at the local Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS), which was identified as the state's sole laboratory equipped to handle and analyse the samples.
At the institute, only one sample has tested positive till now. But two more residents of Noida in Uttar Pradesh -- adjacent to the national capital -- have also tested positive and are being treated at hospitals in New Delhi.
"The only case confirmed so far is that of five-year-old Hasan, who had arrived from London. But we cannot rule out the possibility of more," SGPGIMS microbiology department head S Dhole told IANS.
"Even though the cost of each sample test runs up to about Rs. 5,000, the government has provided us with sufficient facilities to carry out the tests free of charge," he added.
Dhole, however, emphasised the need for greater preventive measures, creating awareness and improvement in sanitation and basic hygiene.
"Much of the problem would be contained with change in the weather. If there is less humidity in the coming days, the virus would not get a chance to grow that rapidly," he said.
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