The New Year has begun with a health alert for Rajasthan, which is facing it’s worst ever outbreak of swine flu (H1N1) that has sickened 374 people and caused 24 deaths in a little over two weeks.
Till January 9, Rajasthan had reported 195 cases and 7 deaths, but cases have almost doubled since then. Updated data from the state, likely to be added up by next week, will push up the national numbers from the current 220 cases and 10 deaths.
In 2017, India witnessed 85 H1NI cases and five deaths in the corresponding period, with the year ending with 38,810 cases and 2,264 deaths.
“Jaipur is reporting an upsurge of cases and it seems like a local transmission. Most of the other states have shown a decline in numbers and we can’t predict a trend just as yet. The rising numbers could also be because
more people are getting tested even if not required,” said Dr AC Dhariwal, director, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
In January 2017, Rajasthan reported one H1N1 case and one death , 86 cases and 19 deaths in 2016, and 173 cases and 43 deaths in 2015 during the same period.
The state has begun screening people for flu symptoms around every swine flu case within 24 hours of a case being reported. “An audit of every swine flu death from January 1 to 11 is being done. Most of the people who died were in the 51-64 years, showed an investigation of the 16 deaths,” said additional director (Rural Health) Dr Ravi Prakash Mathur.
Apart from increasing awareness by distributing pamphlets in the affected areas, screening is will be done at night shelters, hostels, schools, and paying guest facilities, he said.
H1N1 is still the predominant virus strain in circulation in India, as compared to the US, which is reporting an outbreak of two strains of influenza viruses— H3N2 and H1N1.
“In India, the predominant virus strain so far is H1N1 and not a single sample of H3N2 has been picked up by our surveillance system, but with the global spurt in H3N2 cases, we are constantly testing samples for other influenza strains,” Dhariwal said.
Flu cases report an increase in January in the north and around February-March in peninsular India, causing symptoms like fever, lethargy and cough.
It is a self-limiting infection, with hospitalisation needed only for high-risk populations, such as people over 65 years and children.
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