With more than half of the swine flu deaths — 196 — in the country reported from Maharashtra since January 2017, health experts said there was a need to study how pre-existing health complications among patients, demography of those affected and the progression of the disease that could be aggravating the toll. The latest swine flu victim was a 72-year-old Kurla woman, who died on May 12.
Dr Soumya Swaminathan, director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said that a new strain of the virus — Michigan strain — has been isolated from samples collected from Maharashtra. “We don’t have an answer to this. We need to study the virus to understand why its behaves differently in different parts of the country,” she said.
Experts also advised practitioners to be attentive towards patients showing atypical symptoms to avoid a delay in diagnosis. Primary swine flu symptoms are fever, lethargy, headache, cough, sore throat and nausea. While most people recover within a week, those with low immunity and suffering from chronic diseases such as asthma, lung diseases, diabetes, cancer, kidney or heart problems risk serious complications and even death from multi-organ failure.
Dr Om Srivastava, infectious diseases expert, said unlike in regular swine flu patients, lungs are last to get affected in many patients from eastern Maharashtra. “Majority of patients from these regions, primary organs affected are guts, kidneys, brain, spine and eventually lungs. Though such cases are extremely rare in Mumbai, we don’t know the exact cause of progression of swine flu,” he added.
Meanwhile, the state public health department is keeping a close watch on those falling in the high-risk category of contracting the virus.
“To prevent transmission of the virus, more than 30,000 individuals from the vulnerable category — diabetics, pregnant women, hypertensive patients and elderly — have been vaccinated,” said Dr Pradip Awate, state surveillance officer.