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Delhi and Pune show largest local flu spread

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By G.S. MUDUR in Delhi
  • Published 18.07.09

New Delhi, July 18: Health officials today detected the largest local spread of the swine flu in India so far with five children in Delhi and five in Pune picking up the virus.

Two brothers and two sisters, all under 15, and a 16-year-old girl who had come into close contact with a previously infected patient in Delhi have tested positive for the H1N1 virus, the health ministry said.

In Pune, four girls and a boy in their early teens, who had all come into contact with an infected person there, have tested positive.

According to health officials, the 10 children may be said to represent a small cluster, although a full-fledged (larger) cluster is not visible yet.

The government did not clarify whether the five Delhi children had got the virus from a 14-year-old city schoolgirl who was found infected with H1N1 earlier this week, a few days after she had returned from a vacation in Malaysia. She had attended classes before she developed fever and was tested.

Public health experts have said the emergence of large clusters in many cities would be a tipping point in the evolution of the pandemic. It would prompt the authorities to change the existing policy of confirming infection in every suspected case, isolating each patient, and treating the patient and contacts with the anti-viral drug oseltamivir.

“Multiple large clusters would mean widespread infection within the community,” a senior health expert said.

“When that happens, we would need to stop testing every suspected case and begin to follow up only serious cases and clusters, and examine trends in the virus circulating in India.”

All H1N1 patients in India have so far shown only mild symptoms: fever, cold and cough. But infection patterns in other countries show that the virus can cause serious disease, including pneumonia.

In a scenario of widespread community infection, oseltamivir will not be prescribed to all patients but will be reserved for those considered particularly vulnerable or those who develop complications.