M A I N   N E W S

Cabinet’s bitter dose for Azad over H1N1
n Ministers concerned over flu management
n Govt warns of cluster formation in Pune
n First fatality in Bangalore; toll reaches 20
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 13
As the nationwide toll of swine flu climbed to 20 with Karnataka witnessing its first fatality today, the Union cabinet is, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, learnt to have voiced serious concerns over the current level of H1N1 management and preparedness in the country.

Notably, even a week after the Prime Minister himself called up Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to constitute an expert group to create H1N1 awareness in public and take other required measures, the ministry has not moved much in the direction.

Though the PM did not say much at the meeting, UPA sources said the Minister was left to field many hard queries from other colleagues, with discussions centering around the severity of the flu in poll-bound Maharashtra.

Meanwhile, Karnataka witnessed the first swine flu fatality on Thursday as a 26-year-old school teacher, Rupa, succumbed to the virus at a Bangalore hospital.

Two more deaths, including nine-month-old Swabhiman Kamble (country’s youngest victim) and Archana Kolhe, 37, were reported from Pune, thereby taking the nationwide toll to 20. So far, Pune has witnessed 12 deaths, Mumbai 2, Ahemadabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Vadodra, Nashik and Trivandrum one each.

Maharashtra, with its shutters down, came in for deep focus at the meet, with Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar deeply concerned over the political fallout of the swine flu that had caused schools and theatres to close down.

Azad also faced queries on how equipped were the central teams to advise states on flu management, considering bureaucrats were no experts of public health. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh is said to have made that point in the wake of additional secretaries being sent to states to identify additional testing and treatment facilities.

The issue of masks also came up, with Azad saying that “only those people who have symptoms need to wear a mask. They have to wear the mask not to protect themselves but to protect others”. Some cabinet members also suggested that India should try the Mexico model to contain infection. The same, apparently, had no buyers.

Meanwhile, the government, for the first time since the swine flu outbreak, admitted that the virus had established itself firmly in the community and could lead to cluster formation in Pune, which continues to sit at the heart of the pandemic.

“There is no cluster yet, but there’s a strong possibility of detecting one in Pune,” warned Director General Health Services (DHHS) RK Srivastava.

He said the city was acquiring the level of an infection needed for cluster formation where health authorities would have to go in not just for patient but community and area isolation.

That being the fact, the government today spelt major changes in H1N1 testing and treatment strategy, saying high-risk populations including children, elderly, and those with associated illnesses like diabetes, broncho-asthma and cardiac problems would get top testing and treatment priorities.

(With inputs from Shubhadeep Choudhury in Bangalore and Shiv Kumar in Mumbai)




Apollo’s U-turn

New Delhi: Apollo, a major corporate hospital, which had earlier turned away swine flu patients, on Thursday said it would try to create separate isolation wards outside its existing facilities to treat those afflicted by the disease. The statement issued by the hospital said it might take “couple of days to weeks” to create these isolation wards. — PTI 



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