Not ready for swine flu
With over 200 deaths in January alone, experts say India needs more research on the H1N1 virus before it is in a position to combat the flu
I2009, when swine flu hit the N country for the first time health experts were clueless about the new virus.Within eight months it killed around 1,000 people. Five years later, India is still unprepared to combat the virus. In January alone, the virus has infected about 2,500 and killed more than 200 people.
Telangana, the first state where swine flu started to spread in early December last year, is the worst affected.Till February 5, at least 715 people in the state have contracted the infection and 34 succumbed to it. Rajasthan has reported 440 cases of infection and 68 deaths. Though the government is reluctant to call it a pandemic,the rise in the number of swine flu cases has created panic. Adding to that is lack of understanding of the virus and its spread.
Union health minister J P Nadda has deputed senior-level health teams to Telangana and Rajasthan to assess the situation and assist in managing the viral infection. The National Centre for Disease Control (ncdc) in Delhi has also enhanced surveillance for influenza-like illnesses and severe acute respiratory infections. It is providing laboratory support for testing and a 24x7 outbreak monitoring cell is attending to public queries on swine flu.
The reason for the high number of deaths in Rajasthan is lack of awareness. “Patients show up at a later stage when the disease is tough to manage.Even nurses and doctors are not well aware of how to treat swine flu in Rajasthan,” says Narendra Gupta, a Chittorgarh-based physician and convener of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan’s Rajasthan chapter. The state also has no approved laboratory and samples are sent to Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute (vpci) in Delhi. In contrast, Hyderabad, the worst affected district of Telangana, has two government-approved virology laboratories.
Is it the weather?
In Telangana, the spread is linked to dipping temperatures.“We think the spread is linked to record low temperatures this year. A proper study is yet to be done,” says L Narendranath, the official spokesperson for swine flu in Telangana.
Telangana faced severe cold this winter. It saw its coldest day on December 20,2014, when temperature dipped to 3.9oC in Adilabad district. Average temperature