Govt seals lips as swine flu toll zooms

At 155 deaths,Gujarat has had the highest number of swine flu fatalities among Indian states so far this year,according to the Union Health Ministry’s latest nationwide update on the deadly H1N1 virus.

Written by Express News Service | Ahmedabad | Published: March 31, 2013 3:41 am

At 155 deaths,Gujarat has had the highest number of swine flu fatalities among Indian states so far this year,according to the Union Health Ministry’s latest nationwide update on the deadly H1N1 virus.

The high death toll,the Gujarat High Court’s recent reprimand and increasing pressure from opposition parties in the state Assembly appears to explain why the state health department has refused to divulge statistics about the flu for 11 consecutive days now in spite of repeated enquiries by several journalists.

According to the Health Ministry’s latest update,which was issued Friday and has data up to March 26,Gujarat has recorded 837 swine flu cases since the beginning of the year. The death toll of 155 means around 18.51 per cent or almost one in every five patients who contracted the virus died.

The state’s death rate from H1N1 is also the third highest in the country,only less compared to Madhya Pradesh’s 24.28 per cent and Punjab’s 21.78 per cent. The death rate in Delhi is the lowest at 1.08 per cent in spite of it having registered the highest number of swine flu cases (1,472).

Meanwhile,the last update on swine flu issued by the state’s health department was on March 19,by which time the death toll had reached 125 and 701 infections had been registered.

The crisp daily updates,normally issued by the deputy director of epidemics every evening,usually contained the total number of cases,deaths,recoveries and those under treatment,as well as some patient details such as age,gender,hometown or district and location of death of those who succumbed to the virus on those days.

These updates stopped from March 20 onwards and none of the department’s top officials,including principal secretary and health commissioner P K Taneja,additional director of health Dr P V Dave and joint director of epidemics Dr Dinkar Raval,have provided details of H1N1 cases.

They also did not answer calls to their respective cellphone numbers nor replied to text messages from The Indian Express,which asked why updates have been stopped in spite of several enquiries.

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