Maharashtra has been witnessing a significant rise in the number of swine flu cases, with the highest number of infections reported in Pune, Mumbai, Thane, Nagpur, Kolhapur and Nashik.
Until mid-August, at least 1,449 persons have been detected with swine flu in the state; 43 of these patients have succumbed to the infection. Pune recorded the most deaths – 13 – followed by Nashik (6), Thane (5) and Nagpur (4).
Maharashtra has seen 3,735 deaths due to A (H1N1) virus (swine flu) since the pandemic struck in 2009. Around 35,407 persons have been infected with swine flu in the last 13 years, according to a state health department analysis. Pune has reported 361 cases of the infection followed by Mumbai (291) and Thane (245) this year.
“Maharashtra’s overall surveillance and laboratory network has been regularly picking up cases – be it Covid or swine flu,” Dr Pradeep Awate, Maharashtra surveillance officer, told The Indian Express. Swine flu has become an endemic now and deaths are largely among the higher age group with co-morbid conditions, he said.
With the dominance of Covid infection in the last two years, experts such as chief intensivist at Noble Hospital Dr Ameet Dravid said that an “immunity wall” had developed against coronavirus disease with exposure to infection, and vaccination.
At the intensive care unit of Noble Hospital, for instance, of the 15 patients, one has Covid while 14 have H1N1 virus. “We are also getting H1N1 patients with severe acute respiratory distress syndrome related to bilateral pneumonia,” said Dr Dravid.
Dr Pradeep D’Costa, chief intensivist at KEM hospital, said that out of five patients with pneumonia three are of swine flu, one of Covid and another of some other viral or bacterial infection. The main symptoms for swine flu include fever, sore throat and body ache.
According to state health department data, there were 5,278 cases of H1N1 virus in Maharashtra and 268 deaths in 2009. In 2010 too, the numbers had climbed to 6,118 cases with 669 deaths. The next few years saw fewer numbers. This changed in 2015 which saw 8,583 cases and 905 deaths due to swine flu. There was a brief respite in 2016 but the numbers picked up when the state registered 6,144 cases and 778 deaths (in 2017), 2,594 cases and 462 deaths (2018), and 2,287 cases and 246 deaths in 2019. Following a lull in 2020 and 2021 when deaths were reported in single digits, this year has seen 43 deaths and 1,449 cases so far.
With respiratory infections thriving the most during monsoon, experts have advised wearing of masks. “It would be desirable to have the government authorities issue some guidelines on masking,” Dr Vineeta Bal, immunologist with the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), said.
Call for reduction in price of combined test
With cities showing a spike in H1N1 cases, there has been a demand to regulate the rates of laboratory tests to detect the infection. At present, a combined test to detect Covid-19, swine flu and routine influenza costs nothing less than Rs 6,000, rendering it out of reach for a large section of people. “It is not feasible then if someone in the family gets infected with swine flu and others need to get tested as well,” the relative of a patient said on condition of anonymity.