Amid concerns over rising swine flu deaths in the country, Health Minister J P Nadda on Wednesday warned the people to be careful about the virus but said there was no need for panic as medicines and facilities to tackle the disease were in place.
Responding to members’ concerns in Rajya Sabha over the spread of the H1N1 virus which has so far led to the death of over 875 people across the country, the Minister said the government was taking it with all seriousness and would leave no stone unturned to tackle it.
Nadda said there was no shortage of medicines and swine flu testing facilities were being provided free of cost at specified government hospitals.
“No stone has been left unturned as far as seriousness is concerned and all efforts have been made. I assure the House and the members that there is no shortage of medicines. There is no need to panic, but we have to be alert,” Nadda told the Upper House while replying to a discussion on the issue.
On vaccination, he said experts have opined that it does not provide 100 per cent protection and questions are being raised on its efficacy too.
“I want to assure the House that the inputs given by you will be discussed at the review meeting today. Keeping in mind the sentiments of the House, I will take efforts in all possible ability at my command,” Nadda said.
Responding to a question why the government does not go for traditional Indian medicines to tackle the disease, the Health Minister said, “There is no time to go in for experiments.”
Nadda said states and hospitals were given directions to set up isolation wards, give training to doctors and give them with personal protection equipment besides equipping them with medicines in December last year when the disease had started breaking out.
Earlier members from various parties raised queries and sought to know what steps government has taken to check the further spread of the swine flu virus.
During the debate on the issue, Basaraj Patil (BJP) said strict action needs to be taken to prevent private hospitals and testing labs from charging exorbitant rates.
Ananda Bhaskar Raplu (Cong) said the government has not utilised the Indian medicine system, which he claimed had a treatment for swine flu.
Stating that 40 per cent of the swine flu cases reported worldwide was in India, Ahmed Patel (Cong) said a surveillance and monitoring system needs to be developed to map the epidemic and plan the response.
The outbreak, he said, should be taken very seriously and a health emergency plan formulated. Also, protective face- masks as well as medicines should be urgently made available to the people on a wide scale.
Pramod Tiwari (Cong) said the most number of deaths have taken place in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, all BJP-ruled states.
The number of deaths, he said, was in thousands as there was no diagnosis available in rural areas. He wanted to know what kind of assistance the Centre was providing to states.
Naresh Agarwal (SP) wanted to know if the government had a permanent solution to such epidemics as swine flu and other diseases like dengue were breaking out every year. He asked the government to form a panel of top doctors to frame a national emergency response to meet this challenge.
A Navaneethakrishnan (AIADMK) said Tamil Nadu has been able to control the outbreak through screening at entry points as well as having separate monitoring and control centres in every district.
K C Tyagi (JD-U) said labs were charging upward of Rs 5,000 for each testing, something that poor cannot afford. Also, masks were being black-marketed at three times the actual price.
Narendra Kumar Kashyap (BSP) said the ailment was serious and its treatment very expensive and sought to know if the government would provide free testing and treatment to the poor.
Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena) said this was one case where “we cannot blame Pakistan or Bangladesh for this” and sought the framing of a national policy to face the challenge.