Swine flu in India: Death toll reaches 1,587 as study warns of mutations

New Delhi: Fifty more deaths took the swine flu toll close to the 1,600-mark with nearly 28,000 people affected even as a study by the US-based MIT suggested that the H1N1 virus may have acquired mutations which make it more "severe and infectious".

The Union Health Ministry today said that as on March 11, the swine flu toll in the country had reached 1,587 while the number of cases of the disease stood at 27,886. As the swine flu onslaught continues unabated, four more persons succumbed to the disease in Rajasthan, where the toll, according to state health officials, has reached 358.

However, the Union health ministry said that the toll in the desert state was 359 and it had recorded 6,093 cases of the disease.

In Gujarat, the toll climbed to 362 with the number of affected persons at 5,894. The total number of casualties was 247 in Maharashtra and 219 in Madhya Pradesh.

Delhi has now reported 3,727 cases of swine flu with the toll in the national capital standing at 10. In Punjab, the disease has killed 51 persons with 69 being the death toll in Telangana. Haryana has seen 44 casualties followed by Uttar Pradesh (34), West Bengal (17) and Karnataka (65). Fourteen people have perished due to swine flu in Jammu and Kashmir.

Meanwhile, even as the Union Health Ministry maintained that there have been no mutations in the H1N1 strain, a new study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said that the swine flu virus in India may have acquired mutations that make it more severe and infectious than previously circulating H1N1 strains.

The study contradicts previous reports by Indian health officials that the strain has not changed from the version of H1N1 that emerged in 2009. MIT researchers found that the recent Indian strains carry new mutations in the hemagglutinin protein that are known to make the virus more virulent.

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