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Page last updated at 10:15 GMT, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 11:15 UK

India swine flu toll rises to 10

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A bar in India gives out swine flu masks to customers

The number of people to die of swine flu in India has risen to 10 with the death of three more patients on Tuesday, federal health officials say.

Two girls, aged seven and 13 years, and a 62-year-old woman died in Baroda, Pune and Mumbai cities respectively.

A number of schools have been shut temporarily over fears of children contracting the disease.

Officials say there are more than 800 cases of the H1N1 flu strain in India.

The virus is thought to have killed almost 800 people around the world.

"The number of swine flu cases are rising. We have to work a little harder," federal health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters.

Pune city in western India appears to be the worst affected with six of the ten deaths. The city has also the highest number of swine flu cases in the country.

Doctors in a hospital Pune say that six patients of the flu are in a critical condition.

Among the people who died of the flu this week are a 53-year-old doctor of indigenous medicine and a four-year-old boy in the southern Chennai city.

Over the weekend, three people died of the flu in western India - a 43-year-old businessman who was visiting Ahmedabad city in Gujarat state; a 42-year-old teacher in Pune city; and a 53-year-old woman in Mumbai city.

Last Monday, a 14-year-old girl became the first person in the country to die of swine flu.

Rising concerns

Health officials say that the country has enough stocks of the anti-flu drug, Tamiflu.

However, panic is growing among the people with swine flu deaths making it to the front pages of newspapers and main TV news.

Several schools in western India and the capital, Delhi, have closed temporarily as fears grow about children contracting the flu.

A shop owner wearing a mask in Mumbai
Panic is growing among the people with swine flu fears rising

In Delhi, where some 228 cases have been confirmed, health officials say that people are panicking "because the symptoms of swine flu and common influenza are similar".

As the number of flu deaths rise in the country, health officials have asked people not to panic.

Indian PM Manmohan Singh has asked the health ministry to step up preparedness against the disease and coordinate with state governments to help stop the disease from spreading.

"All state governments have been asked to set up their own swine flu helplines, create more quarantine wards not only in their hospitals but also in the big private hospitals," federal Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said.

The BBC's Soutik Biswas in Delhi says though the number of swine flu deaths in India is still low, there are concerns over the ability of the badly-run and under-equipped government hospitals to handle the rising tide of patients.

Also, the 12 swine flu testing centres in India will not be sufficient if the number of cases rise sharply, our correspondent says.

"We need to work out a public-private partnership between the hospitals to tackle the flu. We need to take the people, doctors and media into confidence so panic does not spread," junior Health Minister Dinesh Trivedi told the BBC.

Last week, the World Health Organisation announced that the first swine flu vaccines were likely to be licensed for use in the general population in September.

The swine flu (H1N1) virus first emerged in Mexico in April and has since spread to 74 countries.



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