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August 13, 2009
World governments try to fast-track H1N1 flu vaccine

According to the World Health Organization, the H1N1 flu virus has killed just under 1,500 people worldwide. Right now, it is spreading through India’s sizeable population.

Dr. Martin Blaser, the past president of the Infectious Disease Society of America and the chair of the Department of Medicine at New York University’s School of Medicine, joins Martin Savidge to discuss the flu pandemic and the risks from a global perspective.

Below, read what bloggers in India had to say about the flu and the government’s response.

Blogger “Ivan Quadras” in India mocks the hype over the H1N1 virus:

As my good friend Kanul put it, “200 people get swine flu and the whole of India wants to wear surgical masks! 20 million people have AIDS and nobody wants to wear a condom!”

It’s really funny to see masks worth Rs. 20/- being sold at Rs. 200/-. It is funny to see Indians actually taking care of hygiene. It is funny to see everyone masked around me.

Rahul Agrawal in India argues that the government has to share in the blame for the spread of the disease, describing his flight into the country:

While I agree that this virus has come to India through passengers coming from overseas, I would say that the biggest blame lies with the Indian government for its negligent attitude which has led to this situation in India.

Before landing in Mumbai, each passenger was given a declaration form in which the person had to fill in some basic information like whether they had been to a flu affected country or had been in contact with a flu infected person. I filled this form in the flight and then landed at the airport. There was utter chaos at the terminal. There were some officials who wore face masks and asked each passenger to go to a particular room to get the form attested. I duly went to that room and got the form attested. After that I cleared immigration and entered into Mumbai with that form still with me; no official had looked at that form after I got it attested. So here I was, back in India, with a useless form in which I had mentioned that I had been to a swine flu infected country. No one had bothered to read that form and test me for any possible symptoms. And now the government blames travellers!

Blogger Arindam Chaudhuri, an editor with a news magazine, criticizes India’s health care system in his personal blog:

The impending pandemic of swine flu has once again brought to the fore the hapless condition of Indian healthcare, the under preparedness of the government as well as the indifference with which the babudom tends to treat such incidents that generally plague the common man to a large extent. Incidentally, just as the news of swine flu is spreading panic like wildfire, these days there are also reports of thousands being affected by cerebral malaria in Bihar. Yet, that doesn’t make prime news; and won’t make much news even if the casualties there were to happen in multiples of those dying due to swine flu.

What is visible all across is how the public healthcare system is woefully inadequate to take care of India’s burgeoning population. In the given environment, it is not just swine flu that needs to be arrested, but even the flu that ails the entire health infrastructure, i.e. the political mindset, needs to be corrected simultaneously.

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