Swine flu deaths continued unabated as the toll crossed 620 even as the country's drug authority today asked chemists to stock Tamiflu drug but not sell it without prescription.
The virus claimed 39 more lives between February 15-16 taking the total total number of deaths this year to 624. The number of people affected by the flu is 9311 this year so far, much more than past few years.
With the death toll rising, the number could surpass that of 2013, which had reported 699 deaths. 218 people had died of swine flu last year. In 2012, there were 405 deaths.
Health Minister J P Nadda chaired a high-level review meeting here to take stock of the crisis as officials assessed reports from states and measures to deal with the infectious disease, sources said.
As reports emerged about shortage of medicines at some places, Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) wrote to over 10000 chemists across the country to stock Oseltamivir drug but not sell it without prescription, they said.
It also asked chemists to keep a photocopy of the prescriptions on which they have sold the drug.
The death toll in Rajasthan and Gujarat—the two worst affected states—stood at 176 and 150 respectively on February 16.
In Rajasthan, the maximum number of 30 deaths was reported in capital Jaipur.
Swine flu claimed five more lives in Gujarat today, taking the toll to 155 since January, while 155 new cases were detected in the state, according to an official release issued by the state health department.
"Gujarat has reported five swine flu deaths, taking the total number of deaths to 155, while 155 new H1N1 (swine flu) cases were reported today," the release said.
A death each, was reported from Kutch, Jamnagar, Gandhinagar, Anand and Bharuch districts in the state today, the release said.
As per the release, as many as 722 people have been cured out of the total number of positive cases, whereas 1,059 patients are still under treatment in various hospitals.
Gujarat Health Minister Nitin Patel claimed here today that the state administration has taken proper steps and isolation wards dedicated to swine flu patients have already been set up in each and every district headquarters.
"The health department has taken all necessary steps. All facilities have been provided to tackle the swine flu situation. We have created isolation wards in all big medical colleges along with hospitals in each districts," Patel told reporters.
Gujarat Health Commissioner J P Gupta said that the administration has set up a new laboratory in Kutch to detect swine flu cases since that district is the worst affected.
The health department would also send proper stocks of medicines to any private hospitals, if they require it and that too absolutely free, Gupta said.
Eighty-one people have died in Madhya Pradesh, where the highest number of causality, 15, due to infection of H1N1 virus was reported in Indore.
Meanwhile, two senior officials were sent to RML Hospital in the national capital to assess the situation following reports that swine flu patients were facing problems in getting medicines.