Panic is slowly tightening its grip on India with a four-year-old boy, a 36-year-old ayurveda doctor and a 35-year-old chemist dying on Monday – all of secondary complications atop swine flu — taking the toll to seven over the last week.
Before you join the panic, consider this: the common flu could be killing 572 Indians every day.
<b1>Since there is no published data for the common flu for India, HT extrapolated US numbers. Common flu causes 2.2 per cent of all US deaths. Use the same ratio on the estimated 95 lakh deaths in India each year and it appears evident that swine flu’s common cousin is much deadlier.
Globally, the common flu kills 5 lakh, says the World Health Organization (WHO), whose data puts the swine flu toll at less than 1,200 people this year.
“There is not enough data about common flu infection for India,” said Dr Vishwa Mohan Katoch, secretary, Ministry of Health. “Deaths could be a little higher or lower than the US, depending on overall immunity and medical care available.”
Katoch said that by next year the ministry hopes to have a network of laboratories to track virus infections.
Sanjay Balakumar (4) became Chennai’s first casualty. In Pune, doctor Babasaheb Mane and chemist Sanjay Tilekar took the city toll to 4. The Maharashtra government shut schools, colleges and coaching classes in Pune for a week, and cinema halls for three days.
In Delhi, after Sanskriti and DPS East of Kailash, Modern School Humayun Road and Mother’s International shut for a week and a day, respectively.
Contrast this with the US, where the toll is 436 but no schools are closed. New US guidelines released on Friday discourage closure of schools, unless infections shoot up.
“The experience globally shows that in most people the infection has been mild and they have completely recovered even without treatment,” WHO Representative to India Dr SJ Habayeb said earlier this week.
Risk of death is higher among people with underlying conditions like cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, obesity, etc.
What’s driving the panic here are the five deaths in two days. According to WHO, get tested and treated only if you have severe symptoms like breathlessness, fall in blood pressure, chest pain, loss of consciousness, or if your fever or respiratory symptoms recur.