India witnesses over 10 times increase in swine flu cases

INDIA-HEALTH-SWINE-FLU-H1N1 A woman worker manufactures disposable face masks at a workshop on the outskirts of Ahmedabad | AFP

Even as the country is battling the scourge of the H1N1 virus, as many as 22,186 cases of swine flu have already been reported this year across the country, according to data from the ministry of health and family welfare. This indicates a steep increase from last year, when the country saw only 1,786 cases.

According to the official data, 342 people have died due to swine flu this year, while the number of deaths in 2016 was 265. 

On the one hand, experts say, this jump indicates the robust disease surveillance programme, but on the other, it also indicates a worrisome trend.

"The rise in cases is certainly a cause for concern as this is the early phase of the disease," said Dr Atul Kakar, senior consultant and vice chairman at the department of internal medicine at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi. According to the hospital, out of 211 cases attended there, three deaths have been reported between July 1 and August 16.

The corresponding figure for the deaths at the city's Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) hospital stands at 23, of which 14 are residents of Delhi. However, data from the Centre record only three deaths in the city. Explaining the discrepancy in the records, a source from the health ministry said that the Centre took note of deaths as belonging to a certain city only if there were relevant documents to prove residence. 

An official from RML hospital said, "Many patients die due to reasons of co-morbidity such as patients having diabetes, hypertension and respiratory problems. The ministry is careful in recording whether these deaths are solely because of swine flu."

"Deaths due to swine flu are not an issue because it can be treated easily. Only a small number of patients who have low immunity or suffer from conditions of co-morbidity are at risk of death," said Kakar. The government ought to release an advisory on swine flu, and also make the test cheaper, he added. Currently, the test costs about Rs 5,000.  Kakar also said that many cases might not get detected because the test is expensive.

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Topics : #swine flu