Alarmed by three swine flu deaths in a span of 16 days, the municipal corporation on Monday issued an alert to all its hospitals and dispensaries to watch out for patients with swine flu symptoms.
Ashiya Sheikh, a 25-year-old Bhandup resident, succumbed to swine flu on Saturday, barely a week after she delivered twins at Sion Hospital last week.
A one-year-old from Mulund and a 27-year-old pregnant woman died due to the infection in May.
These deaths came after a gap of more than six months, sparking fear that the second wave of swine flu is here. But Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials said it would be premature to consider these deaths as a signal of the resurgence of the virus. “It is too early to say that it’s the beginning of the second wave,” said Manisha Mhaiskar, additional municipal commissioner.
Dr Daksha Shah, head of BMC’s epidemiology cell, pointed out that the virus had never disappeared. “The H1N1 virus is in the environment. Swine flu cases had reduced drastically but we never had a long period without any cases. There is no need to panic,” she said.
Sheikh and three other Mumbaiites had tested positive for swine flu last week. One of them, a woman admitted to the ICU at Sion Hospital, is critical. The other two – a five-year-old boy and a 17-year-old boy – are currently in the isolation ward at Kasturba Hospital and are responding well to medication.
Health officials are considering reviving the standard operational procedures that were followed at the peak of the first wave last August such as administration of Tamiflu to all suspected patients even before the test reports arrive.
Can’t link Weather to swine flu: Experts
Experts said the recent swine flu deaths could not be attributed to the pre-monsoon showers. “There has been hardly any rain and little change in the temperature so we can not link the swine flu cases to the weather,” said Dr Abhay Choudhary, director of Haffkine Institute.
Experts have predicted a surge in cases during monsoon and winter as virus activity usually rises when temperatures dip.
Dr Choudhary, however, said H1N1 is an “enigmatic virus” so one could not know anything for sure. “Influenza viruses are more active in cooler weather so we should have seen more cases in northern India through the winter. But the maximum number of cases were from Maharashtra and Bangalore.”