The number of swine flu deaths across the country leapt about six times in the past two weeks, with 104 people succumbing to the viral infection so far this year, government figures show.
The total number of people affected with the disease has also gone up six times during this period, with 1,165 reported cases of influenza A H1N1 – which is characterised by fever, cough, body ache and troubled breathing. Swine flu claimed 17 lives in the first two weeks of this year and 87 in the next two weeks.
Experts say the jump in numbers is a result of the drop in temperatures and the trend will continue at least until the end of February when it is still cold enough for the virus to grow and multiply.
“It is not unusual to see cases of flu during winters and people do not die of the flu per se, rather of co-morbid conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension, chronic pulmonary conditions, etc. The strain has not seen any shift and we cannot say it’s more virulent this year,” said a senior scientist from the National Centre for Disease Control, requesting anonymity.
Telangana and the national capital are worst hit with more than 50% of the people affected by the virus. Statistics show 465 tested positive in Telangana and 259 in the Capital so far this year.
Rajasthan reported the highest swine flu deaths at 25 while Gujarat was next with 22 and Telangana was third with 17 deaths reported.
Gujarat has also reported 170 cases of the disease, which is the third highest in the country.
But the government said there was no need for panic.
“We have enough supplies of the anti-viral drug oseltamivir and protective equipment to handle any crisis situation. H1N1 is like any other seasonal flu and one needs to take similar measures to recover as are taken when down with normal flu,” said a health ministry official.
The Nagpur mayor held an emergency meeting in the wake of a sudden spike in swine flu patients and directed the health department to launch an awareness campaign on preventive measures.
The Tamil Nadu government has set up round-the-clock call centres for people with H1N1 symptoms. The state has enough stocks of Tamiflu tablets and has readied 20 diagnostic centres.
The West Bengal government has decided to procure oseltamivir tablets worth about Rs 24 lakh soon for treatment of swine flu cases in the state. However, no such cases have been reported in the state so far this year. In 2014, 18 cases and one death were reported in Bengal.