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Swine flu spikes but don’t panic

A Swiss tourist with swine flu died in Rajasthan on Thursday, triggering panic in the state but experts said there was no cause for alarm as the recent spike was a seasonal phenomenon.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2015 02:57 IST
Sanchita Sharma

A Swiss tourist with H1N1 (swine flu) died in Jodhpur on February 12, triggering panic in Rajasthan where 1,404 cases and 117 deaths were reported till February 11.

Nationwide, swine flu infected 5,697 people and killed 43 till February 11, the last day till when data is available with the Union Health Ministry.
Three states — Rajasthan, Delhi and Gujarat — have reported more than 1,000 cases each in a little over a month, which is more than the 937 cases reported in all of 2014.

“The numbers are high but there’s nothing to worry about, H1N1 is a self-limiting infection and most people recover without treatment. Mortality (deaths) remains less than 1% worldwide, and also in India,” says Dr DT Mourya, director, National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, one of the two BSL-3 (Bio-Safety Level-3) labs closely tracking H1N1 in India.

“Gene sequencing – by both NIV and the National Centre for Disease Control in Delhi – show that the virus has not mutated, it’s the same virus that caused less than 1,00 cases and 218 deaths last year,” says Anshu Prakash, joint secretary in charge of Emergency Medical Relief at the Union Ministry of Health. Last year, swine flu infected 937 people and killed 218 across India.

“Cases are expected to go down over the next week, but there may be a spike in cases again during the monsoon,” says Dr Mourya.

People reacting late

More H1N1 deaths are being reported because it is the only infection people are being tested for. “Almost all deaths are among people with existing diseases or bilateral infections. But since they were only being tested for H1N1, swine flu is being listed as the cause of death,” says Dr Mourya.

Anne Marie, 70, the Swiss tourist who died after testing for H1N1, had lung cancer. With 1,404 cases and 117 deaths, Rajasthan is worst affected state.

“She was admitted on Wednesday evening and she died on Thursday morning,” said Chief Medical and Health Officer Dr YS Rathore. “She was also suffering from lung cancer and young children, pregnant women, elderly people and people suffering from serious disease are vulnerable,” he added.

“As many as 77 of the 117 deaths took place within a day or two of hospitalisation, indicating people were reaching hospitals too late,” said Rajasthan health minister Rajendra Rathore. He said public awareness was being increased about the symptoms and the need for early medical attention.

Drugs at hand

In Haryana, Faridabad, Rohtak, Jind, Karnal and Hisar are the worst hit. “The virus thrives in cold weather plus delay in diagnosis and treatment because of lack of awareness is pushing up cases in Haryana,” reiterates Ram Niwas, additional chief secretary, health, Haryana.

In Madhya Pradesh, at least 10 fresh cases of swine flu are being diagnosed each day over the past few days. In Bhopal, 90 cases and 13 deaths have been reported, and in Indore, 43 cases and 17 deaths, which has prompted chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan reviewing the situation each day.

The Centre has stockpiled 60,000 doses of antiviral drug Oseltamivir and has advised states to provide N-95 masks and vaccinate healthworkers treating people with H1N1 infection.

Three pharma companies in India — Hetero, Natco and Strides Acrolab — have the manufacturing capacity and raw materials needed to produce the drug. A stockpile of 60,000 doses of Oseltamivir (75 mg and 45 mg) and 1,000 doses of the paediatric syrup, which is manufactured only by Hetero, has been built to send to affected states.


(With state inputs)