H1N1 becoming a seasonal flu virus strain in India even during summer - Seeker's Thoughts

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Friday, 8 March 2019

H1N1 becoming a seasonal flu virus strain in India even during summer


With H1N1 becoming a seasonal flu virus strain in India even during summer, it is advisable that health-care workers and others at risk get themselves vaccinated. 

Despite the sharp increase in cases and deaths, the vaccine uptake has been low. Besides vaccination, there needs to be greater awareness so that people adopt precautionary measures such as frequent handwashing, and cough etiquette.


What is H1N1?
H1N1 is a virus which causes flu.

Earlier forms of the H1N1 virus were found in pigs (swine). Over time, the virus changed (mutated) and infected humans. H1N1 is a new virus first detected in humans in 2009. It spread quickly around the world.

H1N1 virus is a regular flu virus
The H1N1 virus is now considered a regular flu virus. It is one of the three viruses included in the regular (seasonal) flu vaccine.

Deaths due to seasonal flu strain in India
There were 448 deaths, and 14803 cases due to H1N1 in India within 55 days up to February 24, 2019.

The highest numbers were from Rajasthan (3,964), Delhi (2,738) and Gujarat (2,726). Uttar Pradesh was next, with 905. While Rajasthan and Gujarat had the highest number of deaths, at 137 and 88, respectively, Delhi recorded seven deaths despite recording around the same number of cases as Gujarat.

The Risk for the health of Care workers and others
The number of cases and deaths steadily rising. What is more disturbing is that the number of cases reported till February 24 is nearly the same as that recorded in the whole of 2018 (14,992).  
At about 450, the number of deaths till February 24 is nearly half the total reported in 2018 (1,103).

The actual number of cases and deaths this year is likely to be higher as West Bengal has not reported the data to the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme.

Global deaths due to H1N1
According to the WHO, in 2009 the number of laboratories confirmed deaths caused by the pandemic strain was at least 18,500.

But a 2012 paper in Lancet Infectious Diseases mentioned 2,84,000 deaths, which was 15 times more than the number of laboratories confirmed deaths.

More Prone to disease remain ignored
People with pre-existing chronic diseases, who are most susceptible to H1N1 complications according to the WHO, have been ignored — though its own statement released on February 6 had said more deaths were seen in people with diabetes and hypertension.

Union Health Ministry’s effort
The Number of H1N1 cases and deaths are higher yet the Union Health Ministry. reviewed the preparedness and action take by the state to deal with influenza/

Despite the number of cases and deaths more than doubling in less than 20 days since the review, the Ministry has made no additional effort to contain the spread.

It has issued a guidance “recommending” vaccines for health-care workers, and deeming them “desirable” for those above 65 years of age and children between six months and eight years.


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