With half of India’s 2,057 H1N1 cases over the past week reported in Delhi, children are the worst hit.
“Swine flu has become the biggest cause of school absenteeism in Delhi over the past week. Though most symptoms are mild, this is the time to close schools to break the infection cycle,” said Dr Subhash Arya, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at BLK Memorial Hospital at Pusa Road in Central Delhi.
“With antivirals such as Tamiflu still not available at all chemists, the ones who have the drug charge up to Rs 3,000 for a strip of 10,” said Dr Arya.
Antiviral drugs are given free at government hospitals to people with symptoms of H1N1 and people who may have got infected through close contact with them.
The biggest challenge remains people with symptoms being prescribed antivirals while they wait for the results of H1N1 tests to come, which takes at least four days at government hospitals.
Overuse of antiviral drugs increase risk of drug-resistant strains of H1N1 emerging.
“My son Ankit, 7, had fever and both he and I were given Tamiflu for five days,” said a Vasant Kunj resident Sumita Tiwari, 36.
“The test results, however, came out negative after we had completed the full course of treatment, which makes me fear the medicine may not work the if we get infected again.”
“Infection is higher in children as adults have higher immunity against flu viruses because of frequent infections over the years. In my view, giving antivirals to everyone is not required...,” Dr V.M. Katoch, the director-general of Council of Medical Research (ICMR).