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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Screening sought as WHO calls swine flu a pandemic

AS THE World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday declared swine flu a pandemic, India, which has seen rising cases of the flu, is taking up the issue of screening passengers travelling to the country from regions that are affected by Influenza A (H1N1).

    This action comes in the backdrop of the health ministry asking the ministry of external affairs (MEA) to push fluhit countries to start screening all outbound passengers to India, in a bid to stop the virus from spreading in India.
    Union health minister Ghulam Nabi
Azad, in a letter to external affairs minister SM Krishna, said, "We expect a substantial inflow of our students returning from vacation from affected countries. ...you are requested to take up the matter with the governments of affected countries to do screening of out-bound passengers at their airports." The letter further said that India could see an increase in H1N1 cases if such screening practices were not in place in countries that are affected by the virus.
    Responding to the request, the ministry of external affairs has said that it will take up the matter with the countries concerned through its missions. "We have issued necessary instructions
to our Missions in the countries concerned to take up the matter with the host governments on an urgent basis," the MEA said in a statement on the screening of passengers coming to India.
    Two more persons in Delhi and one in Goa tested positive for swine flu, taking the total number of such cases in the country to 15, according to reports. A total of 74 countries are now affected by the virus. The WHO has now
called the disease a pandemic and raised its alert to the maximum 'level six'. The move will trigger heightened health measures in the WHO's 193 member states as authorities brace for the worldwide spread of the virus. The move to phase 6 reflects the fact that the disease was spreading geographically, but not necessarily indicate how virulent it is. "Phase 6 doesn't mean anything concerning severity, it is concerning geographic spread ... Pandemic means global, but it doesn't have any connotation of severity or mildness," WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said.

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