9 Fold Rise In Swine Flu Cases: Faulty Response By India
According to a report by IndiaSpend, 2017 has witnessed 18000 cases of swine flu, where 871 people died due to the virus. It is a 9-fold increase as compared to the number of cases in 2016 when 1786 people got infected and 265 people died due to the flu.
Swine flu has infected a larger chunk of the population this year
- Swine flu or Influenza A spreads at a quick pace through droplets
- Maharashtra has been affected the most by the disease
- Influenza B and H2N3 virus are also not detected in time
According to a report by IndiaSpend, 2017 has witnessed 18000 cases of swine flu, where 871 people died due to the virus. It is a 9-fold increase as compared to the number of cases in 2016 when 1786 people got infected and 265 people died due to the flu. After two years of the outbreak of the H1N1 virus in 2015, when 42500 people were infected by the virus and 3000 died, India fails to give an adequate response. The seasonal flu vaccination is yet not a part of India's national vaccination policy. Besides this, a nation-wide public database to record all variations on a yearly basis in terms of such viruses has also not been maintained.
Doctors say that there is a need to vaccinate children, health workers, pregnant women and elderly people (who have a medical history of chronic illness).
Swine flu or Influenza A spreads at a quick pace, when the infected person sneezes or coughs, the droplets carry the H1N1 virus affecting the people around. The symptoms are not very different from seasonal flu, like coughing, sneezing, fever, sore throat, headache and body ache. Therefore, one doesn't see it coming at early stages.
Maharashtra has been affected the most by the disease, 50% of the cases this year were reported in this state. Gujarat witness 210 deaths this year, with over 30 in just 3 days.
Devendra Maurya the director of National Institute of Virology, told IndiaSpend that the rise in the number of cases is owed to the better national surveillance and improved laboratory detection systems.
Experts feel that this is owed to the lack of immunity in people. The immune system strengthens due to infection or vaccination. Cases reported in 2016 were far less than the number of cases in 2015, because of this theory. The increased number of cases this year can be owed to the fact that lesser people are immune, again due to lesser number of cases reported in 2016.
"We are definitely seeing more cases in younger patients," Rahul Tulle, consultant physician, Vedant Hospital, Thane told IndiaSpend. "Since the virus spreads through air, young people are more affected as they are more exposed to overcrowded places like malls, trains, cinema halls, railway stations and bus travelling."
Early detection of the disease
"Deaths due to swine flu are commonly seen in those who are not treated on time and who do not complete the medication course," says Om Srivastava, a Mumbai-based infectious disease specialist. "If you suspect a patient has H1N1, start the treatment. The longer you wait, more likely that it gets worse."
"The current IDSP results are skewed and inaccurate," G Arun Kumar, a virologist who has a laboratory at the Manipal Virus Research Centre, informed IndiaSpend, "They [district surveillance officers] collect samples only when there are deaths or only during flu season and not on a weekly and all year around basis, as they should."
Besides this, Influenza B and H2N3 virus are also not detected well in time because of failure in data collection, as these viruses are not as hyped as others. The two diseases can also lead to the death of a patient.
"In the absence of public health [cadre], public health surveillance cannot be enforced. The IDSP is a stop-gap arrangement that does not fall within the definition of public health surveillance," says T Jacob John, a virologist and public health expert, who earlier was in Christian Medical College, Vellore. He focussed on the need for good surveillance as it will help in better detection and treatment of the disease.
Though the H1N1 vaccine is priced at Rs.500 to Rs.700 for different brands, it is quite expensive to be provided to everyone. But efforts can be made to deliver it at least to the more needy sections like pregnant women, children, health workers and the elderly.