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Swine Flu Death Toll in India Increases

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In India, five more people have died of swine flu, taking the death toll from the HIN1 virus to six. 

The city of Pune reported its third death due to the H1N1 virus on Monday, when a 35-year-old doctor of traditional medicine succumbed to swine flu.  Authorities say three people hospitalized with the virus in the city are in critical condition.

Pune is about 120 kilometers southeast of India's financial capital, Mumbai.  The other deaths have been reported from Mumbai and Ahmedabad - also in the west, and from Chennai in southern India.

A four-year-old boy died in Chennai on Monday.  A woman in Mumbai, and an Indian businessman visiting Ahmedabad from the United States died over the weekend after contracting H1N1.    

Pune authorities announced new measures to stem the spread of the virus.  Schools and colleges have been closed for a week, and cinemas and shopping malls have been ordered shut for three days.  People have been advised to stay at home.

Guardian Minister in Pune, Ajit Pawar, asked people not to panic as tens of thousands of worried people flocked to city hospitals for tests. 

He said that apprehensions among many people that the disease cannot be treated quickly are not true, and 135 people have been treated and gone home after recovering.

Several schools have been closed in big cities such as New Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai as a precaution.

Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad appealed to anyone with flu like symptoms to stay away from crowded places.  He said his ministry will ask state governments to step up preparedness to tackle a possible increase in the number of cases.

"I think the way swine flu is spreading we need to work a little harder ... they will impress upon the state government they should immediately identify more hospitals, isolation facility centers, separate wards for the patients," Azad said.

He said 864 people have been identified with H1N1 virus in the country, of which 533 have been treated.  He says says sufficient stocks of the anti-flu drug are being distributed. 

The World Health Organization has said that more than 1,150 people have died from swine flu, and the virus is in 168 countries.  

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