Mumbai (AFP) Aug 10, 2009
The number of people to die from swine flu in India rose to six, health officials said Monday, as the government called for calm and people flocked to public hospitals for tests.
The latest to die of the (A)H1N1 virus were an ayurvedic or traditional medicine practitioner in Pune, 120 kilometres (75 miles) from India's financial hub Mumbai, and a four-year-old boy in the southern city of Chennai.
Both patients had been unwell for some time, Indian media reported, quoting state health officials.
A man who arrived in western Gujarat state from the United States at the end of July and a woman from Mumbai both died on Saturday, while a schoolteacher died in Pune on Sunday.
India's first swine flu death was that of a 14-year-old girl last Monday, also in Pune, which has seen the country's biggest cluster of cases.
The Indian government is screening travellers arriving at airports and asking people with flu-like symptoms not to go to public places and to seek medical attention.
Some schools shut amid concern about the virus, as newspapers and television news channels showed queues of people, many in surgical masks, waiting for tests outside health centres.
The state government of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, ordered the closure of all schools and colleges in Pune for one week, local minister Ajit Pawar told a news conference.
Theatres and multiplex cinemas in the city were to remain shut for three days, he added.
Schools in New Delhi are to be given advice to prevent the spread of the virus, but chief minister Sheila Dikshit said there was no cause for alarm.
"The people of Delhi should not panic that there is a big outbreak of swine flu. But they should take precautions," she told reporters.
Public health officials in densely-populated Mumbai, home to 18 million people, told AFP in May that although there would be swine flu cases, the spread of the disease may be curtailed by high temperatures and humidity.
As of Sunday, there were 82 newly confirmed swine flu cases in India, taking the total number of people with the virus to 864, the ministry of health said.
Most had either returned to India from abroad or had contact with people who had been overseas.
The government is sending 100,000 doses of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu to affected cities, health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad told the Hindustan Times newspaper.
A spokesman for India's top generic drug firm Ranbaxy, which makes a copy of Tamiflu, told AFP they were ready to supply one million tablets of the medication.
"We have indicated this to the government," the spokesman said.
The World Health Organization said this week that more than 1,150 people have died from swine flu and the virus was now in 168 countries and territories. Nearly 90 percent of deaths have been in the Americas.
Iran halts Saudi flights during Ramadan to limit swine flu
"In order to prevent the spread of swine flu, there will be no flights from Iran to Saudi Arabi during the holy month of Ramadan," Reza Jafarzadeh, spokesman for the Iranian civil aviation organisation said.
Iran will despatch flights from Tuesday to bring back all Iranian pilgrims currently on pilgrimages in Saudi Arabia before the start of Ramadan, he said.
Iran has banned all pilgrimages to the Muslim holy places in Saudi Arabia during Ramadan to control swine flu.
Iranian health authorities have said that no Iranian pilgrims will be in Saudi Arabia from August 22, at the start of the holy month.
The main pilgrimage season, the hajj, which this year is expected to begin on November 19, draws hundreds of thousands of Iranian pilgrims every year and is a religious obligation for every Muslim with the health and means.
But the faithful can also make the so-called lesser pilgrimage or umrah throughout the year, and numbers traditionally rise during Ramadan.
Iran has so far reported over 130 cases of the A(H1N1) flu strain, the majority of them among returning pilgrims.
A string of Muslim countries around the world have announced restrictions on pilgrimages to the Saudi holy places amid fears about the risk of contagion if large numbers congregate there and then return home.
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Malaysian health authorities on Sunday announced a further eight swine flu-related fatalities, bringing the country's death toll in connection with the virus to 26, according to media reports. The latest deaths included a 20-year-old girl, a college student, who died in a hostel after being given outpatient treatment, the Star and New Straits Times websites quoted Health Minister Liow Tiong ... read more
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