‘Maharashtra is India’s swine flu capital’

By Quaid Najmi, IANS,

Mumbai : One year after the deadly Influenza A (H1N1) claimed India’s first victim in Pune, Maharashtra has emerged as the country’s swine flu capital, a top health official said here Tuesday.

Support TwoCircles

The state, with 570 deaths due to the disease in the past 12 months, leads the pack of the worst-hit states, including Gujarat, Karnataka and Kerala, Maharashtra Surveillance Officer Pradip Awate told IANS.

The virus has come a long way since it claimed the life of Riya Shaikh, a 14-year old Pune schoolgirl, Aug 3 last year, triggering health concerns across the country.

What started as a handful of cases around the country quickly grew to around 300 patients at any given time daily in Maharashtra, the top medico handling the virus cases in Maharashtra, said.

“Usually, monsoon is the first pandemic phase, followed by a post-peak phase with increase in the cold months,” Awate explained.

Presently, India is having only the second rainy season since the disease first hit the country, ‘imported’ by foreign travellers.

As many as 1,692 people have succumbed to the disease and thousands have been affected by it in India since its outbreak in May last year.

However, the health authorities expect that in the next couple of years or so, it would finally settle down as a ‘seasonal virus’.

But it has already taken a severe toll. Of the 570 deaths till Aug 1 in the state, Pune notched 300, followed by Mumbai with around 55.

The other important cities with high death figures are Thane, Nashik, Kolhapur, and initially Nagpur, which has had no fatalities in the past four months.

Presently, there are a little over 1,800 H1N1 positive cases in hospitals across Maharashtra, he said.

In the past one year, the country quickly progressed in tackling the disease – with the traditional chemoprophylaxis and the Tamiflu tablets to now a reliable vaccine effective for up to one year.

A couple of private pharmaceutical companies have also developed similar vaccines and tablets for H1N1 which has helped subside the initial panic caused by the disease.

Awate attributes factors like the wet and humid weather peculiar to the states on the country’s west coast besides heavy foreign traffic at international airports like Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Goa, Bengaluru, Kochi and Trivandrum.

Mumbai health officials point out that the disease has been largely under control despite the huge population – around 16 million – of the city.

“Look around, there is no sense of panic, people wearing face masks or gloves. Even Mumbai schools have been spared of any large-scale hits, unlike other districts like Satara, Pune and Kolhapur,” an official from the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai pointed out.