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Swine Flu is back

Testing times lie ahead for citizens. After a brief interlude for a greater part of last year, Mumbaikars are feeling the chills again, as the dreaded swine flu virus is back to stalk the city. While most medical experts mask their fears, five citizens have already contracted the deadly disease, within a matter of days. 




After a period of dormancy since June last year, the virus resurfaced in Pune earlier this month, rekindling fears of a resurgence of the disease in Mumbai. Confirming these fears, a six-year-old Mulund boy and his grandmother tested positive with the virus. The count of patients soon shot up to five, with a 57-year-old, a 53-year-old and a 37-year-old falling prey to the bug in close succession, on March 22, March 24, and March 25 respectively.




Beware: After a period of dormancy since June last year, the virus resurfaced in Pune earlier this month, 
rekindling fears of a resurgence of the disease in the city. File pic

Super Religare Laboratories (SRL), one of the private laboratories authorised to perform H1N1 screening in the state, detected the H1N1 virus in three newly diagnosed patients.

While authorities are downplaying the chances of a pandemic, statistics spell out a different, rather disturbing reality. Though the number of cases have declined encouragingly from 2009 to 2011, the relative death toll from the disease has escalated. In 2009, a total of 1,761 people tested positive for the disease, of which 28 succumbed. In 2010-11, though incidence dwindled to 845 cases, the death toll shot up to 39.

The sudden H1N1 spurt in Pune has claimed the lives of nine of 147 patients who tested positive for the virus.
The medical community is now in search of a pattern of incidence, to help keep the dreaded bug on a tight leash. Authorities from SRL revealed that the three newly-diagnosed victims are not related to each other by ties of blood, but are all residents of Mumbai.

Dr Pradeep Awate, swine flu in-charge at the Maharashtra Directorate of Health Services, said, "From the deaths reported in Pune, we are noticing a new trend this season: deaths are mostly being reported for victims over 50 years of age, with co-morbid conditions. This is different from last year, when deaths of young and otherwise healthy adults were also reported."

Dr Simi Bhatia, lab director for the Central Reference Lab at SRL, said, "It is too early to detect a trend, as not many samples are flying into our shelves for testing. In March, we tested some 39 samples, of which only five tested positive. While it is true that positivity is slightly on the rise in the city, it is too early to say anything more."

Dr Bhatia added, "With a rise in the number of cases in Pune, doctors in Mumbai are exercising more caution and are asking more of their patients to get tested. Thus we are getting more samples, and consequently the number of diagnosed cases is also rising."

Dr Anil Bandivdekar, executive health officer at BMC, said, "All the diagnosed patients are doing well; none of them have required hospitalisation. We have put them on Tamiflu, and they are on their way to recovery."
No reason to panic While the situation is far from spiraling out from control, doctors are advising vigilance in the face of a possible resurgence.

Dr Abhay Chaudhary, director of the Haffkine Institute in Parel, said, "This is a normal trend. We may get more cases. There is no reason to panic, but one must be alert and careful. Those who succumbed to
the disease in Pune mostly suffered from additional complications like malignancy or cardiac problems."

Dr Awate echoed these sentiments, saying, "As of yet, we have received reports of three patients testing positive for the H1N1 virus. Reports of the two newly diagnosed cases are yet to be delivered to us. Even if there is a rise in the number of cases, there is no reason to panic. Sudden spurts are known to occur after pandemics. In spite of the heat in Jodhpur, cases have been reported there."

SRL has tested about 325 samples for the H1N1 strain in Pune, of which 68 have tested positive. From regions like Aurangabad, Nashik, Navi Mumbai and Thane, two out of a total of 21 samples have tested positive.
State authorities are following treatment protocol set by the World Health Organisation (WHO), with a majority of patients being administered Tamiflu, as prescribed by the international agency.

At risk 
* Those who are experiencing symptoms like cough, cold, and runny nose
*Those who are on steroids
* Those who are immuno-compromised
* Pregnant women and children

Classic H1N1 symptoms
*
Discharge of mucus from nostrils
* Fever
* Sore throat

Vaccine
According to WHO, vaccines are the most effective ways to safeguard oneself from contracting any kind of influenza during epidemics and pandemics.

Killer figures
Year          Tested (+)    Dead
2009-10       1,761            28
2010-11        845              39
2011-12          5                 0

28  Number of deaths due to swine flu in Mumbai in 2009-10

39 Death toll in the city in 2010-11

Number of deaths due to swine flu in Pune this year

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