Eight out of every 10 people who died of swine flu, or H1N1 infection, in Maharashtra this year did not receive medication on time.
Maharashtra’s health department has found that in 84% of the deaths recorded in the state in January and February, Oseltamivir ( anti- swine flu drug) was not administered to the patients within three days of the onset of the illness, as is recommended by medical experts.
Doctors said Oseltamivir works best when administered within 72 hours of the onset of H1N1 symptoms.
“For any disease, early treatment means a better outcome, and the same is true for swine flu. If started within 72 hours, Oseltamivir can help reduce the activity of the virus in the body. If there is a strong clinical suspicion that the patient has swine flu, the drug should be used instead of waiting for investigation reports to confirm the disease,” said Dr Pratit Samdani, physician, Breach Candy Hospital, while also cautioning about the misuse of the drug.
The state health department analysed 143 deaths reported in various hospitals in the state, of which 20 were reported in Mumbai.
“In a majority of the deaths in Mumbai, there was a delay of three to seven days. Delay in treatment and any pre-existing illness are common factors,” said Dr Mangala Gomare, chief of civic epidemiology cell.
More than half of those who died of swine flu were admitted to hospitals more than five days after complaining of swine flu symptoms. Diabetes and hypertension continued to be the most common illness among those who died of the H1N1 virus.
Around 57% of those who succumbed to swine flu either had diabetes or hypertension. “We lost six pregnant women to swine flu. It is a significant number as they had no pre-existing illness, which could have reduced their immunity against the infection,” said a senior state health official.
Debunking the myth that swine flu can be fatal in those with preexisting illnesses, the report has also found that in 32% of deaths, there was no history of associated medical conditions that could have increased their risk of death.