Deadly virus kills 5-year-old child

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With a five-year-old succumbing to swine flu at Hindu Rao hospital, the death toll due to the viral infection in Delhi reached 10 on Thursday. Health officials said the total number of cases has reached 2,708 this season, which is higher than previous year.

The panic among people is such that almost everyone visiting a hospital or travelling in Metro trains is wearing face masks to prevent the infection. Many patients say despite government’s assurance to ensure availability of medicines, syrups for children continue to be short.

A random survey by TOI found pharmacy stores charging anywhere between Rs 5 and Rs 500 for face masks. “The one costing Rs 5 is a simple mask worn by doctors while operating. It can work only for two hours. The costlier one has multiple layers and a longer shelf life,” said a chemist at Yusuf Sarai market. He said the sale of masks has shot up suddenly.

Many chemist shops are also selling homeopathic medicines which they claim can prevent the disease.

Health experts, however, advise people to adopt simple precautionary measures like avoiding crowded places, maintaining hygiene and visiting a doctor on symptoms indicating swine flu.

“Wearing masks cannot prevent the infection. It is advisable only for health workers or families who have to work closely with an infected individual,” said a senior doctor at Lok Nayak hospital.

“Swine flu is now a part of seasonal influenza. It can affect anyone but those with co-morbidities like diabetes and heart disease along with mild to moderate symptoms are at higher risk. Families should take extra care for them. Also, there is no need to panic since the infection is self-limiting,” said Dr S K Sharma, director of health services, Delhi government.

The government had recently announced a helpline — 011-22307145 — for people to complain in case of overcharging by private labs or unavailability of medicines.

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