After a 43-year-old NRI died of swine flu in Ahmedabad Sunday, authorities in Gujarat are worried that the state could see a spurt in Influenza A(H1N1) cases as the NRI homecoming season is set to begin, Health Minister Jay Narayan Vyas said on Sunday.
"Gujaratis are a foot-loose community. They love travelling. A lot of Gujarati NRIs return home for vacation during this time. This may increase the swine flu cases in the state. It's a matter of concern but we are fully prepared to handle any situation," Vyas said over telephone from Ahmedabad.
"Soon thousands of our people will return to meet families and friends back here. People from here too go out. We are a globalised community, but there is nothing to worry... We are prepared and all infrastructure is in place to tackle the problem," he said.
The minister's comments came after 43-year-old Pravin Patel, who flew in from the US July 31, succumbed to Influenza A (H1NI) on Sunday, becoming India's fourth swine flu victim. While Pune has reported two deaths, Mumbai has reported one death. A total of 783 people across the country have been infected with the contagious virus as of Saturday night.
Patel's wife too has tested positive for swine flu and she is in critical condition at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital. So far 13 people have been infected with swine flu in Gujarat, of whom eight have a travel history.
Elaborating on Patel's death, Vyas said: "The patient had earlier complications as well. He had viral pneumonia, which is very difficult to treat, his haemoglobin was low at 5.2 (normally it should be above 10). All these peripheral problems added to the complications of swine flu."
The minister, however, stressed that NRIs are not solely responsible for the spread of the virus.
"You cannot say it is spreading only because of NRIs. It is one of the reasons, but not the reason. We are creating awareness among people and the media is helping us in the effort to contain the disease."
Asked if the state government had urged NRIs to defer their travel plans, the minister said: "There is no need of it."
"We have enough medicine, doctors are ready, screening centres are up-to-date. Earlier we used to send samples to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (now known as National Centre for Disease Control in New Delhi) for testing, but now we have our own sample testing lab at B J Medical College.
"This has helped us get the test results in six-eight hours as against 48 hours earlier. We have also prepared 27 swine flu screening centres across the state. Let me make it clear that the state is prepared," Vyas said.
"We are going to hold a meeting with the Indian Medical Association (IMA) soon on the issue," he said, adding that he was briefing Chief Minister Narendra Modi about the developments at least twice a day.