Over 17,000 airline passengers have been screened at various airports around the country for swine flu in the wake of the Indian Government ordering a health screening of all passengers coming from countries affected by the virus.
Senior Ministry of Health and Family Welfare officials said that screenings are taking place in airports at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Goa, Amritsar, Cochin, Ahmedabad, Trichy and Srinagar.
They said the remaining international airports would also start this activity shortly.
A total of 17,949 passengers have been screened so far. Ninety-six doctors have been deployed to man 32 counters at the above airports, they added.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported human cases of Influenza A [H1N1][earlier referred to as Swine Influenza] caused by a re-assorted Swine flu virus.
As on April 30, 2009, eleven countries have officially reported 257 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza A/H1N1 infection with eight deaths. The USA has reported 109 laboratory confirmed human cases with one death and Mexico reported 97 cases including seven deaths.
The other countries which have reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths are: Austria (1), Canada (19), Germany (3), Israel (2), New Zealand (3), Spain (13) The United Kingdom (8), Netherlands (1) and Switzerland (1) .
The decision of MoHFW to decentralize the medical supplies [Oseltamivir and personal protective equipments] has been effected. About 2.50 lakh capsules of Oseltamivir, 18,000 PPE and over one lakh of triple layer surgical masks have been dispatched to the Regional Offices of Health and F.W. This would cut short the lead time in case a suspected cluster is to be contained.
"We have set up special counters so that passengers can be screened. Passengers are being asked to fill up forms to declare if they have recently visited countries like America, Mexico and Canada," said Arun Arora, Associate Vice-President, Corporate Communication, Indira Gandhi International Airport.
Passengers said they were being asked whether they were suffering from swine flu.
"They are asking about have you had fever?, have you had rash?. They just ask you about the symptoms of swine flu and they screen you," said Varva, a passenger.
On Thursday, a senior official of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that there is no swine flu in India, but added that should the virus hit the country, the government is fully prepared to handle it.
Vineet Choudhary, Joint Secretary, Health, said here that there is no suspected case of swine flu in India and that surveillance is in place at all airports.
Choudhary also said the Ministry is taking to companies that manufacture the antidote.
Earlier, the Government of Tripura had sounded an alert across the state to check an outbreak of the deadly virus, official sources said.
The announcements in India followed a World Health Organisation (WHO) warning that "all of humanity is under threat" from a potential swine flu pandemic.
The WHO raised the swine flu threat awareness level to 5 out of 6, indicating that the world is on the brink of a pandemic.