There is no need to panic over A (H1N1) influenza as the virus is weakening with the onset of summer and the disease has changed from a pandemic phenomenon to a seasonal one, Health Minister V.S. Vijay told the Assembly on Tuesday.

Replying to a special calling attention motion moved by the Opposition in the Assembly, the Minister said that the disease was under control, thanks to the efforts taken by the government and Chief Minister Jayalalithaa allowing the purchase of vaccines at a cost of Rs.55 lakh.

All government hospitals had adequate stocks of Oseltamivir. The medicine was available as a syrup for children, he said, replying to members' complaint that it was not available in adequate quantity for children aged below five years.

Special wards had been set up in the Communicable Diseases Hospital in Tondiarpet and all medical college hospitals and hospitals in district headquarters.

Mr. Vijay said that in the first phase, the government had got 25,000 doses of the medicine. Doctors, nurses and medical staff treating A (H1N1) patients were being vaccinated against the virus.

In the second phase, the government had decided to vaccinate the general public depending on the requirement. Monitoring and treatment centres had been set up at the Chennai Airport, railway stations and border areas such as Hosur.

The flu, which spread across the world in May 2009, was brought under control through intensive preventive measures adopted by all countries. “The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced that the disease has metamorphosed into a seasonal flu from a pandemic flu and there is no need for panic,” Dr. Vijay said.

Explaining that the impact of the disease would be severe on children, pregnant women, diabetics, persons suffering from hypertension, heart and liver diseases, the Minister said that C. Kandasamy, a farmer from Tirupur district, succumbed to it because of old age and the delay in diagnosing it in a private nursing home.

His relatives had been given Oseltamivir drugs and were being monitored. None of them had developed the symptoms.

The Minister said throat swabs were collected from persons manifesting the symptoms of the disease and sent to labs for RT-PCR (Real Time-Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests for confirmation. The tests are being done in King Institute, Chennai, and medical college hospitals in Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore and Tirunelveli, besides 12 private laboratories.

Earlier, responding to requests by the members of the House that the government should bear the expenses for the tests done in private laboratories, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said that the tests were done in some medical college hospitals free of cost. “The private laboratories have been warned not to charge more than Rs.3,000.”

Six test positive

On Tuesday, six persons in the State, including a seven-month-old child, tested positive for A(H1N1) influenza, bringing the total to 39 cases. Two persons were reported to be infected with the virus in Chennai, while in Coimbatore all the four cases reported were from the Corporation's jurisdiction.

According to Director of Public Health R.T. Porkai Pandian the cases were reported from Chennai and Coimbatore. In Chennai a 44-year-old man from Saligramam had tested positive for the flu and a seven-month-old baby was found infected by a private hospital.