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Mumbai Closes Schools, Some Businesses In Effort To Fight H1N1 Spread

Beginning on Thursday, “Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, will shut schools and movie theaters as swine flu-related deaths jumped, ignoring federal government advice to keep educational institutions open,” Bloomberg reports. Schools will close for seven days and malls and cinemas for three in an effort to contain the virus, Prajakta Lavangare, a director general of the Maharashtra state government, explained Wednesday (Jatakia/Chatterjee, 8/12).

“The city, India’s commercial capital, is in Maharashtra state, which has seen 11 of India’s 19 swine flu deaths – three in Mumbai alone,” the BBC reports. Yet, Mumbai authorities – whose decision was made despite recommendations by India’s Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, “who has stressed that swine flu is just one of many threats to health in the country” – are cautioning the public to remain calm (8/13).

“The government is grappling with competing and sometimes conflicting goals: preventing widespread panic, but preparing for the worst,” the New York Times reports. Despite making “thousands of test kits” available and stocking up “20 million doses of a generic version of the antiflu drug Tamiflu … India’s vast and densely packed population, coupled with a patchy and fragile health care system, has raised fears that the swine flu pandemic could take a particularly large toll here.” According to the newspaper, as of Tuesday 1,193 of the 5,000 people tested for H1N1 in India had tested positive for the virus; half have since recovered from the flu. The article examines how H1N1, which first appeared in the western Indian states, has spread across the country (Kumar, 8/12).

Reuters/ABC News examines the efforts by Indian health officials to crack “down on price gouging and hoarding of face masks and flu drugs” (Chandran/Jamkhandikar, 8/12).

Gates Foundation Global Health Program President Addresses Global Allocation of H1N1 Vaccine

In related news, the Canadian Press examines the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program President Tadataka Yamada’s call for equal access to a pandemic flu vaccine (8/12). In a New England Journal of Medicine commentary, where he outlines the responsibilities of developed nations, manufacturers and regulatory agencies to ensure developing countries receive the pandemic vaccine, Yamada writes, “Our limited capacity for producing potentially lifesaving vaccines presents a pressing moral challenge. I believe wholeheartedly that all lives have equal value (this is the basic principle motivating the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation …), and I believe that every stakeholder has a responsibility to ensure that the pandemic does not take a 1918-like toll on the world.”

Yamada continues by outlining principles for the global allocation of a pandemic vaccine, concluding, “The prospect of a worsening global influenza pandemic is real and will not go away anytime soon. I cannot imagine standing by and watching if, at the time of crisis, the rich live and the poor die. It will take collective commitment and action by all of us to prevent this from happening” (Yamada, 8/12).

Peruvian Health Officials Detect H1N1 In Amazon Indian Tribe

Also on Wednesday, Peruvian health officials reported that eight Amazon Indians of the Machiguenga tribe tested positive for H1N1, the Associated Press reports (8/12).

Though the seven people with H1N1 recovered, “because the tribe makes its home along the Urubamba River, near a reserve set aside for so-called uncontacted tribes, human rights groups fear the H1N1 virus could spread to the more isolated people,” Reuters reports. “Communities living in voluntary isolation have historically been vulnerable to diseases brought by outsiders, with indigenous populations in the Americas having suffered centuries of losses after Europeans arrived” (Aquino/Ford, 8/12).