A sudden spurt in swine flu cases in the first two weeks of January prompted the Centre to order 30,000 doses of the antiviral drug oseltamivir to treat a potential outbreak, officials said on Friday.
India’s stockpile of the medicine expired in August 2014, leaving the nation defenceless in the face of a spate of the respiratory infection that damages organs such as lungs, causing pneumonia by weakening the immune system.
Despite the rapid jump in numbers, health officials said there was no cause for alarm and the seasonal infection would wane in warmer weather.
Until January 13, 195 cases and 17 deaths were reported in 15 states. Delhi tops the infection list with 60 cases and four deaths.Rajasthan leads the deaths tally with 23 cases and seven deaths.
Last year, swine flu infected 937 and killed 218 across India.
“There are more cases this year as compared to last year, with the 2015 tally being similar to 2013, when there were 5,253 cases and 699 deaths,” says a Union health ministry official who did not want to be named.
Three pharma companies — Hetero, Natco and Strides Acrolab — have the manufacturing capacity and raw materials needed to produce the drug.
The Centre has sanctioned 30,000 doses of Oseltamivir — 75 mg and 45 mg — and 1,000 doses of the paediatric syrup, which is manufactured only by Hetero.
Treatment with oseltamivir shortens the duration and severity of illness if taken within 48 hours of the symptoms appearing.
The swine flu pandemic infected millions in 214 nations worldwide in 2009-10.
There were 18,449 lab-confirmed deaths, shows World Health Organization (WHO) data, but a 2012 review by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the number of deaths to be between 151,700 and 575,400.
In October 2011, WHO declared that the H1N1 influenza virus had become a seasonal virus, which would continue to infect along with other flu viruses.
Symptoms of H1N1 include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, headache, coughing, sore throat, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, etc.
It spreads when infected people cough or sneeze and then others breathe in the virus or touch something with the virus on it and then touch their own face. People are contagious from one day before to seven days after they develop symptoms.
Infection can be prevented by staying away from infected people and maintaining personal hygiene: washing hands frequently, avoiding contact with infected surfaces and covering the mouth while coughing or sneezing.