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Alarming 5-fold rise in swine flu deaths

| | New Delhi
Alarming 5-fold rise in swine flu deaths

There has been an alarming 16-fold rise in the number of swine flu cases and five-fold increase in deaths due to the H1N1 virus infection in India this year. According to the data available from the Union Health Ministry, a total of 29,076 cases have been registered so far in nine months in 2017 across the country against just 1,786 cases in 2016.

Compared to 265 deaths reported last year, the casualty figure stands at 1,415 so far in 2017. Maharashtra tops the list with 504 deaths followed by Gujarat with 367 deaths. (See Box)

However, while many States are under the grip of the mosquito-borne diseases, the data reveal that the virus seems to have spared the North-Eastern region so far. While Meghalaya, Sikkim, Mizoram and Manipur have reported no cases, Arunanchal Pradesh has registered five cases and one death during the period. Tripura has reported 35 cases for the first time in last so many years. 

According to Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Jagdish Prasad, more deaths have been reported because people delay visit to hospital after being exposed to the infection. If patients are put on Tamiflu, the drug approved for treating swine flu, as soon as clinical symptoms appear, many lives can be saved, he added.

Clinicians suspect the H1N1 virus, which causes swine flu, may have mutated. The disease initially spread through pigs but now transmits from human to human.

In 2009, when India was part of the global H1N1 pandemic, it registered 27,236 cases and 981 deaths in eight months (May-December).

In the following year, it was 20,604 cases and 1,763 deaths.

However, the experts at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) blame an “antigenic drift” a sort of an alteration in the virus making it deadlier. However, they refute the chances of any mutational changes.

Maintaining that hygiene is most important, doctor says people should wash hands at regular intervals with disinfectants, and if there is prolonged fever, they must see a doctor. They should also not ignore symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, doctors say.

Dr Sanjay Kalra, consultant endocrinologist of Bharti Hospital Karnal and vice-president of South Asian Federation of Endocrine Societies, said swine flu can be deadly for diabetic people.  “In people with an underlying disorder such as diabetes, mosquito-borne and other diseases such as swine flu cause fever and increase the metabolic rate. This can lead to a fluctuation in blood sugar levels. Provided people living with diabetes are monitored well, they stand the risk of developing serious complications.”

A senior official from the Health Ministry said all states have been asked to ensure that private labs testing swine flu do not overcharge. The States have also been asked to analyse mortality data to find out the age and health profiles of people most affected by the virus. All the States have been asked to tell Schedule-X licence holder pharmacies to stock and sell H1N1 drug Tamiflu, he added.



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