November 24, 2011
India's Sabarimala season is swine flu threat free
This year's Sabarimala season in India is swine flu threat free as all the four southern states have been reported "incident free".
During the past three pilgrimage seasons, Sabarimala had been in the grip of swine flu, and the state government had taken utmost precaution since pilgrims from the H1N1 worst hit states - Tamil Nadu and Karnataka - used to flock the hill shrine.
"This year we are much relaxed as all the south Indian states have been incident free this season. But we have still issued caution to all district medical officers since we don't want to take any chances," said Dr Amar Fettle, state nodal officer for swine flu.
In the past three years, the state had been in the grip of the dreaded disease, and hence the state health machinery was geared up in all the Sabarimala pilgrimage seasons to check any sporadic increase in the incidents.
Last year Arogya Keralam (national rural health mission) had tied up with cellular providers of all the southern states to provide health tips on H1N1 before the pilgrims' entry into Kerala. A call centre was also set up with a helpline number to provide details of the health care facilities available at Sabarimala.
"This year also we are not lagging behind. We have stocked all the medicines and vaccinations in all the hospitals in and around Sabarimala. Also, we have given all training to the health inspectors and volunteers,'' said Amar Fettle.
The health department has also started distributing pamphlets detailing the symptoms of the disease and the precautions to be taken.
"It is difficult to screen all the pilgrims coming to Sabarimala. Hence what we can provide is only awareness and educate them how it can be prevented from spreading," said Amar Fettle.
In the previous years the state government had urged the health departments of all southern states to advise pilgrims to take preventive vaccination before they embark on the pilgrimage to Sabarimala.
However, this year no such caution has been issued to the other states as there has been no report of increase in swine flu cases.