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India Reacts Calmly to Flu Pandemic Alert


India's government health officials say despite the designation of a global pandemic for the H1N1 virus there is no cause for alarm in the world's second most populous country. India has confirmed 16 cases of swine flu in humans and there have been no reported fatalities.

Health officials are trying to assure the more than one billion people in India they are doing all they can to minimize the threat from the H1N1 virus, known as swine flu.

There has been no evidence of an outbreak cluster, so far, in India. Government health officials say all confirmed cases of the virus in the country originated from the United States.

Joint Health Secretary Vineet Choudhary tells reporters even though the World Health Organization has declared a global pandemic, raising its alert to the maximum level, India need not be alarmed.

"There is no need to panic, certainly because the WHO has based this pandemic at Phase 6," he said. "There is need to take action. We have been taking preparatory steps and the government has put into position all mechanisms that are required to tackle with an outbreak that may spread in the community."

Officials say rapid response teams of health personnel have been placed into position in seven cities around the country so they can quickly respond to any additional cases. Sixteen new laboratories are being set up in addition to two existing facilities.

Health Secretary Choudhary also says the country's stockpile of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu is sufficient with 10 million doses procured.

"We have given an emergency stockpile to each state so in case a patient is detected he can be straightaway put on treatment by the state government without waiting for supplies to be sent from Delhi or elsewhere," he said.

India has banned sales of Tamiflu in the open market to prevent people taking it as a preventative measure. That could allow the virus to develop a resistance to the drug. But media reports say Tamiflu is being sold under the counter by some pharmacists at inflated prices.

The Health Ministry plans to install thermal scanners at the Delhi international airport to detect incoming passengers with fever. The government also wants any travelers with symptoms of the flu to avoid coming to India.

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