August 26, 2017
6 months

What is the issue?

The reported cases and deaths due to the spread of H1N1 virus are on the rise in comparison with previous years' records.

What is H1N1?

  • Influenza A (H1N1) virus is the subtype of influenza A virus that was the most common cause of human influenza in 2009.
  • H1N1 flu is also known as swine flu caused by swine influenza virus that is endemic in pigs.
  • It is a highly contagious disease and can easily spread from a patient through saliva and mucus.

What are the recent developments?

  • India is witnessing a new rise in the number of cases and deaths due to swine flu.
  • Gujarat is the worst-affected, followed by Rajasthan, Punjab, Maharashtra and Delhi.
  • The number of cases in the southern states is also high compared with last year, especially in Tamil Nadu.

What is the reason?

  • Pune based National Institute of Virology has noted that the virus has not undergone any significant mutation directly responsible for the spread or increased mortality.
  • Also, the virulence or the disease causing nature has remained nearly unchanged.
  • However, the virus has undergone point mutations.
  • This has resulted in a new strain called the Michigan strain which has replaced the California strain which has been prevalent since the 2009 pandemic.
  • Only the Michigan strain is circulating this year as against the co-circulation of both strains last year.
  • While earlier vaccinations made people immune to the California strain, the circulation of the new strain is the cause of increased caseload and mortality.

What is to be done?

  • Vaccine - After mutation, the newer strain emerges stronger than the earlier strain.
  • More research is needed to fully understand the epidemiology of H1N1 caused by the Michigan strain, and who may be more vulnerable.
  • Also, the composition of the swine flu vaccine will require changes as per the World Health Organization (WHO)s recommendation.
  • Database - The numbers in the official report do not reflect the true reality.
  • This is because it is not mandatory for the private hospitals to disclose all the deaths and the people affected, to the government’s database.
  • There is a need for a system to record and release the actual number of cases for making appropriate response.
  • Prevention - Being a communicable disease, swine flu can best be prevented with awareness generation by the governments.
  • Uptake of influenza vaccination by people, health-care workers and especially by those belonging to the high-risk category, can go a long way in reducing the cases.
  • High-risk categories include pregnant women, very young and old people, those who have had organ transplantation and those with certain underlying illnesses.
  • Government should ensure that there are enough vaccines in various health centres.
  • Also, it should take measures to keep the environment clean to address poor hygiene and sanitation being causes of swine flu.
  • Diagnose - Sufficient lab facilities to diagnose H1N1 cases among both hospitalised and non-hospitalised population is essential.
  • The government should do everything possible to take both preventive and curative measures to fight swine flu.


Source: The Hindu

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