The government has stocked adequate chemicals to test one crore swine flu suspects and also has 60 lakh doses of Tamiflu to treat those who test positive, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Friday.
"There are enough reagents (chemicals) for testing up to one crore people. We have also stockpiled 60 lakh doses of Tamiflu for treating those who test positive," the minister said during question hour in the Rajya Sabha.
Given the magnitude of the outbreak, he said, the ministry was in touch with leading private hospitals to "seek their cooperation" in the testing process.
"So far, we have confined this to government hospitals as they have isolation wards and trained doctors to conduct tests. We are now asking private hospitals to create similar facilities."
Azad said the government was also mulling the sale of Tamiflu, hitherto only available in designated government hospitals, in the open market.
"In two to three days, we will review the sale of Tamiflu in the open market. If necessary, we will do so. That will be done as and when required."
Detailing the steps taken by the government to control the spread of the influenza A (H1N1) virus, Azad said apart from the 574 suspected carriers who had so far been tested, another 7,000 air passengers who were suspected to have travelled in their vicinity had been located through contact testing.
"Had we not contacted these 7,000 people and ensured that they were free of the disease, the number of cases might have been seven million so because that is how fast it spreads," Azad pointed out.
"WHO (World Health Organisation) threw up its hands on July 6. We didn't and are not going to. Today, one day and one month later, we are ahead of everyone in testing and tracing patients," he maintained.
In this context, he noted that from just two laboratories, the number of testing centres had now gone up to 19.
Responding to a supplementary, Azad said each test cost a minimum of Rs.5,000 while those that returned positive cost Rs.10,000.
"It takes a minimum of six hours for a test to return positive," he added.
Azad described as "very sad" the death of Pune schoolgirl Reeda Shaikh, the first swine flu fatality in India, attributing this to "mistakes on both sides".
"The girl went to a private practitioner, she was treated and went back to school. Then, she was treated by a second and a third private practitioner before her samples were sent for testing.
"The diagnosis was not done on time. Pune is not a village. If she had been tested on time, she could have been saved," Azad contended.