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Four more in flu glare

Chandigarh, June 16: Four more Jalandhar students who had gone on a school trip to the US were admitted to hospital today with symptoms of swine flu.

“We have admitted four more students as a precautionary measure and their blood samples have been sent to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in New Delhi. They are being kept in an isolation ward till the blood reports are received. There are now 14 students in the hospital and all are under constant observation,” civil surgeon S.S. Walia said over phone from Jalandhar Civil Hospital.

Seven teenagers from the group of 31 who returned to India on Saturday from the trip to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) in Florida had tested positive for the H1N1 virus yesterday, sending health officials scrambling to prevent India’s first cluster of the pandemic influenza.

“We have set up a special round-the-clock outpatient department. Those who want to get themselves checked can come to the hospital if they feel they have symptoms of swine flu. All doctors have been asked to maintain and refer cases immediately to the hospital,” Walia said.

Yesterday, the Jalandhar administration decided to round up pigs in the city and quarantine them in a vet facility in nearby Gurdaspur district. About 100 pigs had been shifted till this evening, district officials said.

“We have not recommended any movement of pigs (away) from Jalandhar,” a senior animal husbandry official said in New Delhi. “Such a move might be aimed at preventing pigs from getting the infection from humans. There is no incidence of this virus in pigs.”

But research studies have suggested that pigs are “mixing vessels” for influenza viruses — creatures that allow flu viruses to exchange and re-assort genes, and possibly mutate into viruses with new characteristics.

The seven students who are infected with the virus are recuperating fast, Walia said. “Depending on their recovery, we may release some of them in the next two to three days. It depends on the individual,” he added.

Medical teams constituted by the Punjab government have identified nearly 200 people who had come in contact with the students since their return. “We have given them medication after screening them thoroughly,” Walia said.

They have been asked to avoid mingling with people for the next few days as a precautionary measure.

The group of 31 students had returned by a Qatar Airways flight on Saturday. One student showing symptoms of the flu was taken to hospital from the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. The rest of the group travelled to Jalandhar by road.

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