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India issues swine flu warning

India issued a swine flu advisory on Monday and asked all travelers coming to India from the Swine flu-affected countries of Mexico, US, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, France and the UK to report symptoms of cough, cold and fever to airport health authorities. Sanchita Sharma reports. Flu falloutWorld takes measures | Pandemic looms large

india Updated: Apr 28, 2009 01:27 IST
Sanchita Sharma

Is India affected?
No swine flu (H5N1) has been reported in pigs or humans in India. All the 103 suspected deaths took place in Mexico. Cases reported outside Mexico have been mild, including in the US (20 cases), Canada, New Zealand, Spain, France and the UK.
What is the travel advisory in India?

· Defer “non-essential” travel in Mexico, US, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, France and the UK.

· If you’ve traveled in affected countries over the past 10 days and developed flu symptoms -- fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, cough, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea – report them to the airport health authority or call 1075 or 011-23921401.

Is it safe to eat pork?
· Since pigs in India are disease-free, there is no ban on pork and pork products. As a precaution, however, WHO recommends you eat pork cooked a tempertaure of over 70 degrees centigrade.

· No import ban on pork from affected countries has been issued, though bans against pork from bird-flu affected countries (like wild birds, pigs are a carrier H5N1 virus that causes bird flu) of remain in place.

Is there a cure?
· Yes. The anti-flu drug oseltamivir is very effective against the H1N1 virus that causes swine flu. The drug is manufactured in India, which has already stockpiled 1 million doses and plans to boost it with another 1 million.
· There is no human vaccine against swine flu.
India issued a swine flu advisory today and asked all travelers coming to India from the Swine flu-affected countries of Mexico, US, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, France and the UK to report symptoms of cough, cold and fever to airport health authorities.

The preparations are expected to be in place within two days, with plans to track and check for flu symptoms even those passengers who have travelled to India from the affected countries over the past 10 days.

The government, however, has placed no restrictions on eating pork or testing pigs for the virus. “Only people traveling from affected countries will be asked to voluntarily report symptoms of flu like a fever, cough and cold in a form given to them. Unlike bird flu (H5N1) that spread across borders through migratory birds, the H1N1 virus that causes swine flu poses no threat to pigs here. As of today, no pig is carrying the infection in India,” said Vineet Chawdhury, joint secretary, ministry of health.

Swine flu (H1N1) is a respiratory disease that usually affects pigs but has now causing human infection because of a new "reassortant" strain formed by the mixing of genes from human and animal flu viruses. It is spreading through direct contact with infected pigs and in some cases, from human-to-human contact trhrough coughing, sneezing, or touching infected surfaces and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.

Symptoms include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. The current outbreak has affected 1614 people in Mexico, including 103. No death, however, has been reported outside Mexico, with only mild symptoms being reported in other countries, including the 20 cases in the US.

Additional doctors will assist airport health authorities to screen passengers entering India from nine international airports and ports in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kochi, Goa, Jaipur and Hyderabad. “Busy airports such as Delhi and Mumbai that get more flights from the affected countries will get more health officers, while the others will also get support. We’ll have 32 doctors spread over four shifts in a day but the numbers in others are still being finalized,” said Chawdhury.

“There is no need to panic. The anti-flu drug oseltamivir is very effective against the H1N1 virus. Since this drug is also used against bird flu, India has a stockpile of 1 million doses of oseltamivir, which is also being manufactured by in India by Cipla and Hetero drugs,” said Dr Shiv Lal, director general, national institute of communicable diseases (NICD).

Along with the Pune-based National Institute of Virology, the NICD is one of the two centres identified to confirm suspected cases of swine flu. “We can confirm a case within 24-48 hours of the sample reaching us. Will then, the suspected case will be in quarantine,” said Dr Lal.

The decisions were taken today by India’s joint monitoring group – with representatives from the World Health organization and the ministries of Health, environment and Animal Husbandry – that met following the WHO’s designating the current outbreak in Mexico as a public health emergency.