How did Maharashtra, and Pune in particular, become the epicentre of the H1N1 outbreak in India? Some people have blamed the weather, but experts disagree.
“Although some experts suggest that humidity factors and cold weather conditions are conducive to the spread of the H1N1 influenza, the virus spread continued to escalate in Britain despite the warm summer,” said Dr S. J. Habayeb, WHO’s India representative. “In the case of transmission in Pune, we are unable to stipulate the reasons with the information available at this point of time.”
National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) scientists however said that lax administration was to blame.
“The Pune administration was very slow in tracking contact cases. On July 14, a student from Abhinav English School tested positive, but the school was closed a week later. By then, 15 students were infected. Even after Rida Shaikh’s death on August 3, other students at St Anne’s were not screened immediately,” said an official who was part of the NCDC team that travelled to Pune last week.
No assemblies in schools
The number of new infections across India shot up to 220 on Monday, up from 152 on Sunday. Monday was also the day that saw no H1N1-related deaths after eight days.
Of Monday’s new cases, only two — passengers who arrived in Mumbai from the UK and Thailand — got infected abroad.
But on a day when data made a case for scrapping airport screening, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad announced that 24 more thermal scanners would be installed at international airports.
“H1N1 has been contained to a large extent… People who have died of swine flu had either received late treatment or were already suffering from a chronic disease and hence had no immunity,” said Azad.
Instead of closing schools, his ministry will recommend checking infection by cancelling large student gatherings — such as assemblies and sporting events — and making it mandatory for teachers to check each student for symptoms and sending home the ones who are ill.