The swine flu death toll in Madhya Pradesh this year rose to 55, officials confirmed on Thursday, as the ill-prepared state sought the help of religious leaders to create awareness about the fast spreading H1N1 virus.
Sharad Pandit, joint director in the health department in Indore, said that samples of 11 persons who died over the past few days returned positive from the laboratory, taking the toll in the district from 17 to 28.
Health department sources in the capital confirmed the statewide toll of 55 which included 13 in Bhopal district.
The Opposition Congress, however, has accused health minister Narottam Mishra of "hiding" the exact death toll.
With pressure mounting, MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Thursday directed officials to take measures on a war-footing to control the spread of the seasonal disease.
Chouhan reviewed the situation at the Mantralaya, the seat of government, with the health minister and health department officials.
Three more people died at the MY Hospital in Indore on Thursday of suspected swine flu but they were yet to be officially acknowledged, officials said.
Blood samples for swine flu testing are sent to laboratory at the Regional Medical Research Centre for Tribals at Jabalpur, over 500 km from Indore, officials said, preventing quick detection and medication.
“The sudden rise in confirmed swine flu deaths is maybe because a lot of reports were pending with the testing laboratory and coming in as a bunch,” Pandit said.
He added that the health department has decided to “start treatment of suspected patients” without waiting for the results.
In Jabalpur, over 300 km from Bhopal, health authorities sought help of religious leaders of all faiths to create awareness among the people in the district, where three people have died of swine flu in the past few weeks.
“Spreading the message on precautions in religious gatherings will be more effective than installing hoardings and circulating pamphlets,” said BS Chauhan, the chief medical and health officer.
Bhagat Tiwari of Khermai temple in Gwarighat said, “temples are being identified where devotees in large numbers turn up on Thursdays, Saturdays and Tuesdays so that they may be informed about steps to be taken for protection from swine flu”.