5th death, outstation students flee Pune

The swine flu death toll apart, there was more bad news for Pune. The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said the “virus is freely moving in the city”.

In the 24 hours till Tuesday evening, Pune registered 73 more cases, the highest since the virus’ arrival, taking the case count to 294.

The city also registered its fifth swine flu death. Shruti Gawade (13), a Narayan Peth resident, was on a ventilator since August 7 at Sassoon Hospital. She passed away early on Tuesday.

P Deepika (25), admitted to Nigdi’s Lokmanya Hospital, was suspected to have died of the flu but officials could not confirm the cause as her test results are not yet in.

Nine others were in critical condition. “Of these, Nigdi resident Sanjay Mistry’s (35) health is deteriorating. Shobha Gaikwad (31) and Archana Kolhe (37) too are critical but their swab reports are awaited,” said Sassoon Resident Medical Officer Deepa Lad.

“The NCDC team has not yet asked us to announce a Pandemic Level 6,” said District Collector Chandrakant Dalvi. A Level 6 situation would imply a complete shutdown of the city.

National Institute of Virology Director AC Mishra blamed Pune’s susceptibility to swine flu on the climate. “Right now, it’s neither too hot nor too cold. This is conducive for the virus’ survival,” he said.

Scared by the epidemic, students from outside are returning in droves to their hometowns. Some of these students, feared health officials, could be carrying the H1N1 virus back home.

A 24-year-old student of Symbiosis was one such carrier. He returned to Osmanabad last week and got tested after he developed a cough. The tests showed he had swine flu and was admitted to Solapur Civil Hospital. An engineering student, who returned to Shimla, is also a suspected carrier. His test results are awaited.

Pune, an education hub, has two lakh students. Schools and colleges have been shut for a week and Pune guardian minister Ajit Pawar said: “Health authorities have been asked to instruct college hostels not to allow students to return to their native places.”

However, there were huge crowds of students waiting to return home at railway stations and bus stands and travel agents said they were flooded with bookings.

“It’s impossible to stop each student. Most are taking the benefit of a week off to return homes,” said Wadia College principal Bhagwan Thakur.



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