08/18/2009, 00.00
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Swine flu: in India cities are on the verge of panic as the virus spreads further around the world

For some Indian experts the alarm is unwarranted. The number of H1N1 virus-related deaths is far below that of diarrhoea and tuberculosis. Cases continue to increase however with South Korea and Japan registering their first deaths. Persian Gulf states begin to coordinate their efforts to stop the spread of the disease. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are the most affected.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – India has reached 1,928 H1N1 virus cases, 220 on 17 August alone, for a total of 25 deaths, especially in Pune, an industrial city in the State of Maharashtra that is less than 100 kilometres from Mumbai. Even though the daily death toll from swine flu is far below the averages of diarrhoea and tuberculosis, signs of panic are developing, which experts call unwarranted.

In India people have stormed stores to buy masks since local health authorities announced the country’s first death from swine flu, causing prices to jump from 5 rupees (US$ 0.10) to 150 (US$ 2.75).

As the number of cases and deaths rises, so does anxiety among people. In Pune streets are almost completely empty. In Mumbai schools have been closed. Celebrations for the Hindu festival of Janmashtami have been deserted.

Swine flu fear has spread from India to Nepal where ordinary people are not reassured by government measures. The authorities are doing all they can with the resources at their responsible but “the possibility of the virus spreading through the porous border is very much there,” said Jitendra Man Shrestha, deputy coordinator of the n Influenza Control Project.

The swine flu has spread further throughout Asia August. South Korea registered its first death on 14 August out of more than 2,000 cases.

In Japan a 57-year-old man from Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, died on 15 August. More than 7,000 cases have been recorded by Japanese authorities.

On Sunday Vietnam announced five more cases involving high school students in Ho Chi Minh City, setting off alarm bells in the population. So far more there have been two deaths and 1,400 cases in the country.

Fears are also rising in China as to the impact of the flu on students. For this reason education authorities are allowing schools in high risk areas to delay the start of the new school year.

Today Indonesia’s Health Ministry released its latest H1N1 figures: four dead and almost 900 cases.

In its latest public statement the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that more than 1,400 people have died since the start of the H1N1 flu outbreak with more than 177,000 confirmed infections.

The spread of the pandemic is bringing closer countries that are otherwise thousands of kilometres apart. For instance, the presence of 220 Bahraini students in Pune—India’s swine flu hotspot—has raised concerns in the Persian Gulf emirate.

Like the rest of Asia, the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula are counting new cases of infections and deaths.

In Israel a 62-year-old woman has become the country’s 10th fatality.  

In Lebanon a surge has brought the total number of cases to almost 500 in just a few weeks,

In the Persian Gulf, Saudi hospitals have treated approximately 2,000 cases of swine flu, the Ministry of Health announced yesterday.

In the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait health authorities have adopted new measures to cope with the flu in coordination with the Gulf Cooperation Council.

So far Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are the most affected with about 600 and 560 cases respectively.

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