This year's outbreak of the H1N1 virus is the deadliest in India since 2010 (file photo: AFP)
Swine flu has already affected 11,000 people and killed 700 across India since it took hold in mid-December. The number of cases has doubled since last week, but some political leaders remain clueless about the respiratory disease.
“Swine flu is a heart disease... Hence, BMC will plant trees, develop gardens and parks to check swine flu,” Mumbai mayor Snehal Ambekar told reporters on Thursday.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, meanwhile, blamed mosquitos for a disease that is spread by coughing and sneezing.
“As you all know, people are travelling, it mostly happens from mosquito bites and various other reasons. To heal the disease is not possible for me, but to get it nicely treated is our duty on humanitarian grounds,” she said in Kolkata.
Her remarks came after six new cases were reported in West Bengal over the previous 24 hours, taking the total number of infected patients in the state to 42.
This year's outbreak of the H1N1 virus, which causes swine flu, is the deadliest in India since 2010. Critics have accused the government of failing to distribute medicines, but officials insisted the situation was under control.
“If cases are going up, it’s mostly because everyone with fever is getting tested. Deaths are going down in most states, including Telangana, which reported one death on Wednesday after several days, but the infection hasn’t subsided in Rajasthan and Gujarat,” said a health ministry official told the Hindustan Times.
Rajasthan is the worst-hit state with the death toll reaching 191, while in neighbouring Gujarat 155 patients have died.
Experts investigating the cause of the outbreak say low winter temperatures are to blame.
According to BBC News, health authorities across India have launched TV and radio campaigns to tell people about precautions they can take to avoid the flu.
The central government has also ordered 100,000 additional doses of the antiviral Oseltamivir, which shortens the duration and severity of the illness and prevents infection. This will add to the stockpile of 60,000 adult doses of the drug.
Health Minister JP Nadda attempted to rebuff reports of drug shortages. "If any medicine store refuses to give medicines after showing a medical prescription, it should be reported to the authorities and action will be taken," he said.
In Uttar Pradesh, the state government has warned against hoarding and selling antiviral drugs at a premium by private medical stores.
And in Delhi, the city government has ordered all private medical labs not to charge more than Rs 4,500 ($73) to carry out tests for the viral disease. The move comes after several patients complained that tests are being conducted at exorbitant rates in the city’s private labs.