Mumbai schools shut over flu fear

MUMBAI: Indian authorities today ordered all schools and colleges in the vast city of Mumbai to shut for a week over fears about the spread of swine flu.

The state government of Maharashtra has had the highest incidence of swine flu fatalities in India, with four people dying over the last ten days in Pune, 120 km from Mumbai.

“The government has decided to close down schools, colleges and coaching classes in the entire city for a week starting on Thursday,” said Suresh Wandile, spokesman for the state’s chief minister.

“We have seen a rise in cases of swine flu in the state. We need to take care, hence these precautionary measures,” he said, adding that all cinemas and theatres would also close for three days.

Mumbai, home of the Bollywood film industry,

is a teeming industrial

and financial city with an estimated population of 18 million people.

Public concern in India about the spread of

the A(H1N1) virus has mounted since the country’s first death from the

disease on August 3.

As of Wednesday, 15 people who were confirmed

to have the virus had

died, while more than 1,000 people had tested positive, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has stressed

that swine flu should be put in the context of other health risks in India.

“It is not the only virus we have in our country. We have much more fatal diseases, much more costly diseases,” he told reporters in Delhi on Monday.

With most confirmed cases so far among people who have returned from overseas, tens of thousands of travellers arriving at India’s 22 international airports from affected countries have been screened.

A 24-hour helpline and website have been set up, public hospitals have

been given responsibility for testing and isolation of suspected cases, and 100,000 doses of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu have been sent to affected cities.