Health officials are tight-lipped about the H1N1 cases in Madhya Pradesh, making it difficult for the people to grasp the threat from the disease wreaking havoc in neighbouring Rajasthan.
While more cases are being reported from across the state, especially from Bhopal, Indore and Jabalpur, the exact figures are not being provided by the health officials. The word doing the rounds is that the state government has warned private hospitals not to disclose information to the media regarding treatment and death of swine flu patients.
When HT visited the office of Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) at the Satpura Bhawan, the officials said they cannot reveal the figures of swine flu cases unless they get instruction from director health (IDSP) Dr KL Sahu.
On being contacted, Dr Sahu passed the buck on deputy director (IDSP) Dr Sheela Meena, saying she would give the details. Dr Meena was nowhere to be seen when this correspondent reached her office. Moreover, her staff even refused to give her number, saying they can't do so.
Read: Vaccine available in MP, but not many aware
HT spoke to people in different parts of the city to get a first-hand knowledge about the people's awareness about the viral disease and the situation in their own areas. Most of them said they were not aware about whether there were any swine flu cases in their area but knew it was infecting people in the state.
Some of them were not even aware about simple facts about H1N1 and how it spreads. "See there are no pigs in our area. So, why should we worry too much (about swine flu)?" Naval Singh, a resident of Anand Nagar, said.
"Hiding information can never be helpful. On the contrary, it makes people complacent and they underestimate the dangerous disease. If government reveals that swine cases are being reported from a particular locality, it will automatically make the people more alert and take more precautionary measures," Rahul Kaurav, a businessman from MP Nagar, said.
Meanwhile, the health department has now started spreading awareness by putting hoardings in some parts of the city. These hoardings highlight helpline numbers where the people can get information and medical help, in case of swine flu. Helplines have also been started in districts.
Nearly a dozen swine patients were undergoing treatment at various Bhopal hospitals, mostly private ones. At JP hospital, this correspondent found two patients were being treated for H1N1 in the swine flu ward.
This year of over 90 samples that were sent from Bhopal, 25 tested positive for H1N1, Chief medical and health officer, Bhopal, Dr Veena Sinha said. "We are trying our best to spread awareness and at the same time not create any panic," she added.
Loopholes remain in the government's plan to spread awareness about the viral disease. The Union Ministry of Health had earlier come up with broad guidelines for schools and educational institutions to check swine flu. But no such precautionary measures are being taken here and no instructions have been sent to schools in particular.
When HT spoke to district education officer (Bhopal) KPS Tomar, he said no awareness drives were being conducted in schools as he had not got any order from the government. He said there are around 1,100 government and 3,000 private schools in the state capital.
The district administrative machinery is more busy with the civic polls in the urban centres like Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur and Chhindwara. The focus will be on the polls, at least, till February 4 when the results are to be announced. "We were busy with the civic elections. No instructions on swine flu have come to us," Tomar said.
24-year-old woman dies in Gwalior
A 24-year-old woman identified as Archana Bhadoria of Hazira locality died of swine flu in Gwalior on Monday. She was undergoing treatment since January 28 at a private hospital.
The blood sample report of the patient by the Defence Research and Development Establishment) lab confirmed the infection. According to health department officials, Archana was kept in an isolation ward.
She was under surveillance with ventilator support. Tamiflu tablets were also administered to her, but she did not recover. CMHO Anoop Kamthan confirmed the death.