Pune medics advice yearly vaccinations to keep H1N1 at bay

Hindustan Times, Pune | ByNozia Sayyed
Dec 12, 2018 04:11 PM IST

Considering the unexpected pattern of the virus, the state authorities have doubled their preparedness and strengthened their surveillance for the coming year

Maharashtra has been witnessing a change in trend of the influenza H1N1 virus. “Every alternate year, the virus changes its pattern and comes in a stronger form. The next year, it is in a milder form, but in 2017 and 2018, the virus continued to stay strong and we recorded not only many positive cases, but also deaths in large number,” said Dr Pradeep Awate, state head of epidemiology and infectious diseases expert. 

Swine flu ward at Aundh general hospital(HT FILE PHOTO)
Swine flu ward at Aundh general hospital(HT FILE PHOTO)

The state which saw only 82 positive cases and ten deaths in 2016, saw a sudden surge in deaths and positive cases in 2017 with 6,144 positive cases and 788 deaths. In 2018, 2,522 positive cases were reported along with 422 deaths.Considering the unexpected pattern of the virus, the state authorities have doubled their preparedness and strengthened their surveillance for the coming year.

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Awate said, “The figures for positive cases and deaths due to influenza H1N1 in 2016 were extremely low in the entire state. Looking at the drop in figures in 2016, we expected a rise in cases in 2017 and we did, but a sudden change in trend was witnessed this year, wherein the cases continued to surge and deaths continued to take place. This trend was a bit surprising.”

“Hence, the virus’s next move for the coming year cannot be predicted as it has surprised us this year, but we are prepared and we have strengthened our surveillance system,” said Awate. 

However, talking about the behavioural pattern of the virus, Dr S Patsure, medical superintendent of the Naidu Infectious Diseases Hospital of PMC, said, “We are closely monitoring the virus and every two to three years it records more cases. After infecting many, there is a lull for sometime when people develop immunity and every year or two the immunity is reduced; hence, the virus affects more people. To avoid the virus’s attacks, people must vaccinate themselves every year rather than create panic. Most of the deaths which the virus claimed were above the age of 45 and those who had chronic ailments.” 

“After analysing the pattern of the virus, we noticed that before hitting Maharashtra in mid-July in 2017, the virus was extremely prominent in states which are in close proximity to Maharashtra, that is Gujarat and Rajasthan. Travellers from Maharashtra often commute to these states and contract the virus. It was the same case this year too. Secondly, weather and climate change added to the spread of the virus. During monsoon, there is an upsurge in viral infections and in winters as well we see a rise, but due to less rain and more wind, we saw the virus spreading quickly. Hence, this year due to unexpected climate changes, we still kept seeing a rise in positive cases of this virus,” said Awate. 

Talking about Pune, Awate, said, “Some cities have developed herd immunity against this virus and hence, record few cases, but last year and this year as well, majority of the positive cases and deaths were recorded from western Maharashtra where Pune circle topped the list. Other districts that also saw many deaths after the Pune region were Sangli, Kolhapur, Nasik and Nagpur.” 

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