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Campaign launched to allay swine flu fears

With swine flu creating panic among the people, the authorities in Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram have taken up a major publicity campaign to dispel fear on the fast spreading influenza A (H1N1) virus in India.

india Updated: Aug 20, 2009 11:39 IST

With swine flu creating panic among the people, the authorities in Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram have taken up a major publicity campaign to dispel fear on the fast spreading influenza A (H1N1) virus in India.

So far, 10 people have tested positive for the virus in the northeast.

Public awareness campaigns have been started across the three northeastern states while the authorities have taken a string of measures to treat the swine flu victims, if any.

The government's campaign started after panic-stricken people thronged drug stores to buy surgical masks and Tamiflu drugs since earlier this week.

"A lot of panic has been created in the last several days after two people tested positive for swine flu in Mizoram. There is no cause for people to go into panic mode," said Mizoram chief secretary Vanhela Pachuau.

"Following media reports, the people's panic has been caused by ignorance and it is unnecessary. There is no need for them to wear face masks," he said at a press conference on Wednesday.

According to the chief secretary, the relatives of the two victims had already faced social stigma while patients at the Falkawn Referral Hospital and locals objected to the two swine flu infected people being treated at the hospital.

Ten people, including an army soldier and a paramilitary trooper, have tested positive for swine flu in Meghalaya (5), Mizoram (2), Assam (2) and Manipur (1).

"All the swine flu patients have already been admitted at the isolation wards of the hospitals in Shillong, Aizawl, Guwahati, Silchar and Imphal. Their condition is not that critical and there is no reason to be panicky," said a doctor.

The Tripura government held a review meeting with doctors, experts and top civil administration officials.

"On the advice of the union health ministry, all the states in the northeast have been put on swine flu alert to prevent outbreak of the disease and a number of observation centres set up at the border check posts and airports," said Y P Singh, Tripura government's principal secretary in charge of the health department.

Indian Medical Association (IMA) in association with All Tripura Government Doctors Association held a seminar in Agartala on Wednesday.

"Swine flu was noticed first in 1918 and that time it was called Spanish flu, which had spread globally killing over 50 million people in various countries including India," said expert Subrata Baidya.

Baidya told the seminar that in 1919, over 700,000 people had fallen victim in India.

Doctors and experts while addressing the seminar said that in India two people die of tuberculosis every three minutes, 6,301 die daily due to heart trouble. While diabetes claims the lives of 2,740 daily, about 290 people die due to tobacco-related diseases every day. So no panic should be created over influenza A (H1N1), which is just one of the many viruses in the environment.

A public awareness meeting was convened at Tura, in West Garo Hills District of Meghalaya on Wednesday to discuss the preparatory and precautionary measures to sensitise the medical officers, health workers and the media in handling the situation.

"The situation was creating more panic than the actual ground reality," said Deputy Commissioner of West Garo Hills Sanjay Goyal.

Goyal stressed the need to sensitise the people about the disease, although no case has been detected in the remote district so far.

Several teams of experts from the central health ministry are now visiting the northeastern states to train doctors and to supervise the treatment facilities developed and available in these states.

"Following the direction of the union health ministry, one hospital in each district of the seven northeastern states has been equipped to treat patients infected with H1N1 virus," said A C Dey, one of the experts from New Delhi.