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Swine flu surge: K'taka blames pollution, IT employees

With the H1N1 virus claiming 53 lives in Karnataka, the state authorities are blaming frequently travelling IT professionals and pollution in cities like Bangalore for the surge in swine flu cases.

india Updated: Sep 12, 2009 16:04 IST

With the H1N1 virus claiming 53 lives in Karnataka, the state authorities are blaming frequently travelling IT professionals and pollution in cities like Bangalore for the surge in swine flu cases.

"We are trying our best to control it. But look at the pollution level in cities like Bangalore - it is compounding the problem of swine flu," Karnataka principal secretary (Health) IR Perumal told IANS.

"Pollution and less precaution on the part of IT people have worsened the situation. IT people travel a lot and during the initial days they hardly took any precaution," said Perumal.

In terms of swine flu fatalities, Karnataka is second only to Maharashtra, which has seen 72 deaths from the disease so far.

The health secretary said even companies like Infosys had failed to do their duty in helping people take precaution against the disease, which has affected nearly 700 people in the state.

"They have become conscious, but initially none of these IT guys, even Infosys, took the required precaution. I have information that now they have started conducting regular health checkups of employees," he added.

He said pollution in Bangalore is making respiratory diseases intensify and there are hundreds of cases of pneumonia in the state. Health experts have said people with respiratory problems and pneumonia are at high risk at a time when the H1N1 infection is spreading fast.

"Pneumonia is affecting the swine flu situation. We have experienced some 200-300 pneumonia cases in the last couple of months in Bangalore alone. What can I do? The pollution is so heavy in Bangalore," the secretary said.

Last year too the IT capital had reported over 300 cases of pneumonia in this season, he said.

Statistics show that the ambient air quality in the Karnataka capital is deteriorating rapidly. The amount of nitrogen oxide, sulphur oxide and suspended particulate matter is much higher in the air and is leading to respiratory problems among people.

With over 2.5 million vehicles plying on the narrow roads of Bangalore, the air quality is definitely worsening gradually. "Look at the number of vehicles," Perumal said.

The health secretary said he had asked all hospitals and IT firms to report to swine flu screening centres if any of their employees was suffering from pneumonia or swine flu symptoms.

"Now, we have roped in 90 private hospitals across the state for the job. As you know, the government has made swine flu treatment free even in private hospitals. We pay Rs 2,000 to these hospitals for treating each swine flu patient and Rs 3,000 extra for conducting the test," Perumal added.

He also said the state government is distributing ayurvedic medicines to help people improve their immune system. "We are trying our best. The chief minister is taking extra care and has asked us to work hard to curb the virus."

Since the first instance was reported in Hyderabad in early May, India has reported nearly 6,000 cases of swine flu. Of these, at least 160 have died.