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Nearing an epidemic, WHO raises swine flu alert

Swine flu was confirmed in three more countries on Thursday, prompting the World Health Organisation to raise its flu alert level to five, a warning that the world is on the brink of an epidemic. India has begun tracking 50,000 passengers who travelled here from Mexico and the US over the past week. Sanchita Sharma reports.
By Sanchita Sharma | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 01, 2009 01:20 AM IST
Swine flu was confirmed in three more countries on Thursday, prompting the World Health Organisation (WHO) to raise its flu alert level to five, a warning that the world is on the brink of an epidemic.

India has begun tracking 50,000 passengers who travelled here from Mexico and the US over the past week. “Specifically, travellers from Mexico will be screened for flu symptoms. The travel advisory remains the same; avoid non-essential travel to the affected countries,” said Vineet Chawdhry, joint secretary, health ministry.

The unconfirmed swine flu death toll is 168 in Mexico, of which eight are confirmed. So far, 12 countries have been affected — Mexico, US, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Britain, Germany, Israel, Austria, Costa Rica, Peru and Switzerland.

In India, a 27-year-old, who had travelled from flu-hit Texas to Hyderabad to get married, almost ended being quarantined. “It is not a suspected case as he has no flu symptoms. He had a cold and a private hospital referred him to the Government Chest Hospital. When he didn’t show up, we tracked him. Doctors have examined him and found him healthy,” said L.V. Subhrama-nyam, Principal Health Secretary, Andhra Pradesh.

The health ministry is increasing its stockpile of the anti-flu drug oseltamivir from 3 million to 10 million, and has invited bids from the four manufacturers of the drug in India — Cipla, Hetero Drugs, Ranbaxy and Roche India. “The bids from all four have arrived and we’ll have the additional stocks ready in a week,” Chawdhry said.

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