It took the death of a girl in Pune to make the government realise the magnitude of the crisis arising out of the swine flu outbreak. It is habitual for governments to underplay the gravity of issues even as politicians make hollow claims. With the number of deaths increasing with every passing day, the health authorities have woken up to the magnitude of the calamity. Instead of just wearing masks to ward off the flu, we need to educate the people on the possible causes and preventive measures. It would be worthwhile to cancel programmes which involve huge crowds.
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It was indeed responsible of The Hindu to carry a full-length, information packed editorial on swine flu (Aug. 12). The blame for letting the situation go from bad to worse lies squarely with the Union Health Ministry, which failed to act in anticipation.
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I would like to thank The Hindu for keeping news on swine flu flowing steadily, and informing the readers that there is no need to panic. It is just another challenge that needs to be tackled carefully.
But, as has been the trend in recent times, the visual media are substituting panic for awareness. Every death is repeatedly telecast. Maybe, the regulatory authority should step in to ensure that the news channels do not whip up panic.
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In the absence of an effective vaccine, swine flu is here to stay at least for a few months, till people develop immunity to the A(H1N1) virus. Let us be alert and prevent the spread of the virus, and avoid casualties by effective treatment. The media are overdoing their role and creating panic.
The government, on the other hand, has no clear policy to tackle the situation. The country does not have sufficient stocks of Tamiflu (or even face masks). It is available only in a few government hospitals. The government should select a few private hospitals in each city and rope them in to tackle swine flu.
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That swine flu has claimed 17 lives is indeed unfortunate. But we must remember that thousands of Indians die every day due to TB, cancer and other diseases. There is no need to be scared of the A(H1N1) virus. Adequate precautions need to be taken to prevent/overcome it. There is no need to buy costly face masks either. Ordinary thick, big-sized handkerchiefs or dupattas made of cotton or khadi are sufficient to cover the face.