New Delhi: Swine flu has claimed 926 lives across the country, with 51 more deaths reported in the 24 hours to Tuesday, while the number of those infected with the H1N1 virus has crossed the 16,000 mark, according to the health ministry.

The figures were reported as health minister J.P. Nadda told Parliament on Wednesday that most of the deaths were due to co-morbidities—other diseases or disorders present in the patient.

“Patients are coming into hospitals very late and by then the disease co-morbidities complicate the cases. We have been repeatedly saying that there is no need to panic but people need to be alert and report to hospitals on time," Nadda said. His statement came on a day the Delhi high court told the government to list out the steps it has taken or plans to take to deal with the swine flu outbreak within a week.

He said the drug oseltamivir, used during the 2009-2010 pandemic, remains effective for treatment now as well.

According to the health ministry, Rajasthan accounts for the highest number of deaths at 234, along with 4,884 infections.

Gujarat has the second worst figures, with 231 deaths and 3,527 infections.

The third highest figures come from Madhya Pradesh, where 127 people have died so far and 716 have been infected.

In Maharashtra, the virus has claimed 112 lives and infected 1,221 people.

In Delhi, nine people have died so far but there has been a rise in the number of infections to 2,571.

Telangana, Karnataka and Punjab have reported 54, 39 and 38 deaths, respectively. Half the deaths in Andhra Pradesh were due to co-morbidity; while the figures for Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra were 66%, 41.3% and 37.5%, respectively.

“The situation is being closely monitored by us and all necessary assistance is being provided to the states. Adequate stocks of medicine, masks and PPE (personal protective equipment) are available. No efforts will be spared for effectively dealing with the situation," Nadda said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was “carefully watching" the swine flu situation in India though it said that there are “no signs" yet of the makings of a large outbreak of the H1N1 virus—normal for this time of the year.

“We are working with the government on this to watch what is panning out in India. So far, there are no signs of the makings of a large outbreak. But we are watching carefully," said Flavia Bustreo, the WHO’s assistant director general, family, women’s and children’s health.

The number of people who died from swine flu in 2009 was 981, out of the 27,236 cases reported, while a year later, 1,763 died among 20,604 reported cases. In 2012, there were 405 casualties out of 5,044 reported cases. In 2013, 5,253 people were affected, while 699 people lost their lives.

Last year, 937 cases of swine flu were reported, and 218 died.

The health minister denied media reports that there was a shortage of oseltamivir, saying the drug was being manufactured in India.

“We have held meetings with the manufacturers on two occasions. These indigenous manufacturers have confirmed that they have sufficient capacity and stock of active pharmaceutical ingredients to meet requirements. In fact, one of the manufacturers is a central public sector undertaking," he said.

Nadda said his health ministry has supplied 58,000 capsules of oseltamivir, 3,000 N-95 masks and 9,500 PPE to affected states, while maintaining an emergency stock of Oseltamivir.

“In addition, we have in stock 10,000 N-95 masks and sufficient number of PPE. To guide and assist the state governments, teams from the ministry have been sent to Telangana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh," Nadda said.

Meanwhile, a Delhi high court bench of chief justice G. Rohini and Rajiv Sahai Endlaw asked the government to inform it about the steps it has taken to contain the virus, saying there is a need to create greater awareness.

The order came in response to a petition seeking the establishment of multiple testing laboratories in Delhi and reduction in the cost of swine flu tests in order to make them affordable to all sections of society.

Counsel for petitioner Leena Tuteja argued that the minimum cost of a test is 4,500 which was very high and dissuaded people from getting tested for the H1N1 virus. The case will come up for hearing on 4 March.

On Tuesday, the Ahmedabad district collector imposed Section 144, prohibiting mass gatherings without prior permission, because of swine flu.

A statement from the collector’s office said, “It has come to our notice that swine flu cases have been on the rise in Gujarat including Ahmedabad. The virus, which causes swine flu, is contagious and generally infects people by entering through nostrils and mouth mostly at crowded places."

Apoorva and PTI contributed to this story.

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