Delhi registers 15 swine flu cases in as many days
As the symptoms of H1N1 are similar to those of Covid-19, and with most symptomatic people not getting tested for H1N1, the actual number of infections might be higher than reported, doctors and health experts said.
New Delhi: Amid concerns over the rising number of Covid-19 cases, the national capital is also seeing a rise in H1N1 (swine flu) cases with over 15 cases being reported in the city in the past fortnight, health officials with the Delhi government said on Friday.
Doctors and health experts said with the symptoms of H1N1 being similar to Covid-19 and with most symptomatic people not getting tested for H1N1, the actual number of infections might be higher than reported.
Data from the health department shows that Delhi over the past fortnight has reported 15 cases of H1N1, a human respiratory infection caused by an influenza strain that started in pigs (hence the name swine flu).
Dr Rajesh Chawla, senior consultant (pulmonology and critical care) at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, said he is seeing at least two to three patients every day with moderate to severe H1N1 infection and two such patients are currently on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), a life support system that provides prolonged cardiac and respiratory support to persons whose heart and lung functions are severely compromised.
“If you test negative for Covid-19, then you must test for H1N1 because there is a great possibility that you might have that. Since the symptoms are essentially the same and there is not much distinguishing factors, H1N1 can be easily confused with Covid or the seasonal flu. Since people are not getting tested, we are not getting the true numbers. While H1N1 is not as infectious as Covid, it can manifest into severe symptoms among the elderly and people with low immunity and comorbidities,” Chawla said.
Health experts said H1N1 is characterised by symptoms such as fever (high grade in some cases), sore throat, nasal congestion, headache, and muscular aches. In some cases, patients can also experience diarrhoea and difficulty in breathing, and when they do, immediate medical help must be sought.
Doctors said symptoms typically last for five to seven days and in the case of severe patients, a dose of oseltamivir drug, which is usually advised twice a day for five days, can help control symptoms. But this medication can be taken only on a doctor’s advice, they said.
Dr Vikas Maurya, director and head of the department (pulmonology) at Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, said respiratory ailments, including H1N1, tends to witness a rise around monsoon. However, over the past few years since Covid-19 infections were on a rise and were also the sole focus of hospitals and authorities, the detection of H1N1 cases was not much.
“We are definitely getting a lot of patients who are requiring hospital admissions, ventilators and even ECMO support because of their lung involvement. Testing is a must to distinguish between Covid, H1N1 and seasonal flu. Testing will also help doctors decide the course of medication accordingly,” said Maurya.