Swine flu claimed two more lives on late Saturday night and Sunday, taking the death toll to four, even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stepped in to review the situation on Sunday and directed the health ministry to contain the spread of the disease.
Singh asked the health ministry to set up a panel of doctors who provide correct information to those who sought it, and indicated that his office would be closely monitoring the situation.
Pravin Patel (43), an Atlanta-based NRI visiting family in Ahmedabad, died on Sunday morning after testing positive on Friday.
Pune’s second swine flu fatality was Sanjay Kokare, a 42-year-old teacher died in the city’s Sassoon Hospital late on Saturday. Six days ago, 14-year-old Rida Shah had been the first fatality of the disease in the country.
The fourth victim was Fahima Panwala (53) who died in Mumbai on Saturday. Three other persons continue to be critical and are on ventilator support in Pune. Another is in the same condition in Chennai.
“All those who died had existing medical problems and had been treated in private hospitals that didn’t suspect swine flu. The Ahmedabad NRI had very low blood hemoglobin levels,” said a health ministry official.
“It is unfortunate that the case was not detected on time leading to the death… We have called a meeting with private hospitals and will work in coordination to detect and cure,” Gujarat health minister Jay Narayan Vyas told HT.
As first reported by HT on Saturday, Sanskriti School in Delhi closed school for one week after three students tested positive on Saturday.
“Affected cities such as Delhi, Pune, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad have been given 1 lakh doses of the anti-flu drug oseltavivir (Tamiflu), with another 10,000 doses available to any district that needs them,” said health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.
The health ministry is importing 10,000 more of the chemical package used for testing the virus.
“Each screening costs Rs 5,000, and confirmation test costs another Rs 5,000. Panic, along with the seasonal influenza A outbreak, is making people get tested unnecessarily. On Saturday, only 13 of the 93 samples from Delhi had H1N1,” said a senior National Centers for Disease Control official.