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Azad apologises, says never intended to hurt the family

Monday, August 10, 2009 09:11:06 AM, Agencies

Swine flu outbreak spreads: Mexico has raised the probable death toll from an outbreak of swine flu to 81, including 20 already confirmed. Jose Angel Cordova, the country's health minister, said on Saturday that since April 13, "there have been 81 registered deaths which are probably linked to the virus of which....Read Full

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New Delhi: Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Sunday apologised to the family of 14-year-old swine flu victim Reeda Shaikh for his remarks stating that she was responsible for infecting nearly 85 people of her school.


“I never intended to hurt Shaikh family in any way. I never meant to say the Reeda spread H1N1 infection in Pune,” said Azad.


Earlier an ugly row had erupted after Azad said that swine flu was contagious and those who had fallen victim to it could have passed on the virus to others even as the authorities battled swine flu.


His remarks that 14-year-old Pune schoolgirl Reeda Shaikh, who died Aug 3 becoming India's first swine flu victim, could have spread the virus to 80 other people by visiting more than one hospital triggered an angry response from her grieving family.


"One small girl went from one hospital to another, then a third hospital to get treatment and then a fourth, without awareness. In the process some 80 people were infected. This girl ... transmitted the virus in the course of seeking treatment," the minister said in New Delhi.


In Pune, the girl's mother and aunt lashed out at Azad, demanding his resignation for his "insensitive remarks".


"We want an apology from the government. (Azad) has hurt a mother... He has blamed our child for having infected around 80 others. He needs to get his facts right," the angry mother of Reeda told reporters.


The girl's more vocal aunt, Ayesha Shaikh, added: "Our child sacrificed her life for the nation. Because of her death so many people went for swine flu test and have tested positive. We want an apology or resignation from Azad."


Later, Azad apologised to the grieving family.


Deaths continue to pour

The contagious swine flu claimed two more lives in India Sunday, taking the national toll in just a week to four and forcing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's office to start monitoring the spread of the virus.


On Sunday, three people continued to be in a critical condition and 82 fresh cases were reported, taking the total number of people infected by the virus to 864, the health ministry said.


Authorities in Maharashtra and Gujarat - which account for the four deaths - were on high alert.


The latest victims of influenza A(H1NI) were Sanjay Kokare, a village school teacher who died in a Pune hospital, and Pravin Patel of Atlanta in the US who had flown in to Ahmedabad a week ago. Patel's wife is in critical condition.


Kokare died in Pune's Sassoon Hospital after midnight Saturday. In the hospital, six more people are still undergoing treatment. As Pune has become the epidemic city, a central team has been stationed to assess the situation and institute appropriate public health measures.


Ashok Ladda, additional director of the state family welfare department, said that Kokare was admitted initially to a hospital in Khedegaon village near Pune July 31.


He was sent home after two days. But his condition deteriorated again and he was taken to a private hospital in Pune. He was moved to Sassoon Hospital two days back and was on ventilator when he died, Ladda said.


Pravin Patel died at the civil hospital in Gujarat's main city Ahmedabad early Sunday. He and his wife had tested positive for swine flu Saturday.


"This is the first swine flu death in Ahmedabad. The patient had other complications as well. He had viral pneumonia, which is very difficult to treat. His haemoglobin was low. All these added to the complications of swine flu," said Gujarat Health Minister Jaynarayan Vyas.


The latest deaths prompted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to tell Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad that a panel of doctors be formed to provide the people "correct information" regarding swine flu.


According to an official in the Prime Minister's Office, Manmohan Singh said the panel should also provide proper information to the media.


The health minister said: "It (the spread) has gone up across the world and it will also increase in India. For this we need to increase the number of beds in both government and private hospitals."


"So far Swine flu has only been restricted to well-off families," he told a news channel.


Fahmida Panwala, 53, who succumbed to the virus late Saturday in Mumbai's Kasturba Hospital, was the second victim of the virus. Within 24 hours, two more people died.


The authorities are closely monitoring the condition of three people - a medico and a pharmacist, who are in critical condition in Pune, and a 28-year-old businessman who is in critical condition in a Mumbai hospital.


Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan convened a meeting of officials and experts as a team from the National Centre for Disease Control, formerly the National Institute of Communicable Disease, left for Pune.


Pune is in the grip of panic as thousands besieged government hospitals to get themselves checked, almost all of them with their faces masked.


In New Delhi, the privately run Sanskriti School closed down for a week after three students tested positive for swine flu, including one who recently visited Britain.


According to a statement issued by the health ministry, about 4,084 people have been tested so far, of whom 864 are positive for the Influenza A(H1N1). It said that 523 of them have been discharged.


On Sunday, 82 laboratory-confirmed cases were reported with Pune (34) topping the list. It is followed by Delhi (13), Mumbai (12), Chennai (7), Goa (4), Vadodara (3), Kozhikode (2), Hyderabad (2), Gurgaon (2), Thiruvananthapuram (1) and Thrissur in Kerala (1), and Sirsa in Haryana (1).






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