'Swine flu here to stay, but India geared to control it'
Swine flu, which has already claimed 132 lives in India, is here to stay and will spread despite best efforts, but the country is controlling it by early detection, proper treatment and creating mass awareness, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Monday.Updated: Sep 07, 2009, 18:46 IST
Swine flu, which has already claimed 132 lives in India, is here to stay and will spread despite best efforts, but the country is controlling it by early detection, proper treatment and creating mass awareness, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Monday.
Azad said authorities have "learnt some lessons" while tackling the spread of the disease that has become a global pandemic.
"The key to control its spread is early detection, complete treatment of confirmed cases and communicating with public at large to create awareness," Azad said at the 27th meeting of Health Ministers of World Health Organisation (WHOs) South East-Asia region and the 62nd Regional Committee Session of the WHO South-East Asia Region in Kathmandu.
An annual meeting, it is a forum to review progress on health issues and to lay down the roadmap for future action.
"The virus is here to stay and will spread despite our best efforts to prevent its spread," the minister said, according to a statement issued in New Delhi.
Azad said India focussed on contact tracing of suspect patients and also early diagnosis and treatment.
The minister said they enhanced the laboratory testing capacity and formed rapid response teams of doctors drawn from national, state and district levels.
"The number of labs equipped to test for the influenza-A (H1N1) disease was increased from two to 41 in the public and private sectors within a short span of time," he said, adding that doctors and paramedical staff were trained to build diagnosis and treatment capacity.
"India is taking adequate measures to enhance core capabilities at all levels to contain the spread of infectious diseases through border and community surveillance, early warning and detection systems, enhancing hospital preparedness to provide better healthcare facilities and stockpiling of anti-virals and personal protective equipment," he said in his address to the health ministers from the region and top WHO officials.
Azad offered India's help to countries in the region by "cooperating" with them in dealing with the pandemic.
Till Sunday, at least 131 people have died in the country due to H1N1 and 4,738 people have been affected by the contagious virus.
The meeting was attended by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and Regional Director Samlee Plianbangchang. Apart from India, the other countries in this region are Bangladesh, Bhutan, North Korea, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
Azad also highlighted India's active role in tackling the impact of climate change on health.
Talking about the New Delhi Declaration on Climate Change, which was adopted in last year's meet while keeping in mind the effect of climate change on public health, Azad said there is a need to evaluate the evidence and assess its impacts - both long and short term - so that better plans could be made and they could be adapted.
In this regard, he said, India is assessing the increased burden of diseases due to climate change and providing enhanced public health care services to address the adverse impacts on human health.
Talking about the impact of economic meltdown on health, he said despite worsening of economic situation all over the world India has not only maintained the budgetary allocation to the health sector but has increased it substantially.
Azad said that in the five years of the 11th Plan period (2007-12) Rs.140,135 crore (about $31.14 billion) have been allocated to the health ministry as against Rs.36,378 crore (about $7.42 billion) during the 10th Plan period (2002-07).
He said the ministry has been allocated Rs 24,253 crore ($5.39 billion) in the current year - substantially higher than the allocated amount of Rs.20,045 crore ($4.45 billion) in 2008-09.
At the end of the four-day meet, the WHO will adopt a declaration on protecting health facilities from emergencies.