Doctors rush to Gujarat as H1N1 virus toll climbs to 118

AHMEDABAD - With the deadly H1N1 virus responsible for swine flu claiming 118 lives in Gujarat in the past three months, the state government has finally summoned doctors and scientists from Delhi-based National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and Pune’s National Institute of Virology (NIV).

By Mahesh Trivedi

Published: Mon 18 Mar 2013, 10:05 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 4:09 PM

The five-member team is going round various hospitals for the past two days to understand the nature of the virus that has infected 633 people in the state-mostly in the Saurashtra region — of whom 371 have been cured of the viral disease symptomised by high fever and breathlessness.

Dinkar Raval, deputy director (epidemics) and state nodal officer for swine flu, told Khaleej Times that currently 142 patients were undergoing treatment in 84 government hospitals and 49 private health institutions, adding that 68 per cent of the swine flu patients were women, 14 per cent of them being pregnant.

The toll of 118 is the second highest in the country after Rajasthan where the pandemic has killed 130 people this year.

The visiting NCDC and NIV experts has rushed to Gujarat to help the worried state health officials technically to prevent the spread of the disease. The team, which was in worst-hit neighbouring Rajasthan last month will find out whether the prevailing weather conditions have anything to do with the spread of the disease and suggest remedial measures.

The deadly swine flu virus began circulating in Gujarat in May 2009, infecting even Chief Minister Narendra Modi in October that year after he returned from a trip to Moscow. He soon recovered, but not before the entire state cabinet was tested for the illness.

The outbreak that year eventually infected 697 people, killing 117. The following year, H1N1 infected 1,682 people, killing an unprecedented 353. In 2011, the virus’ virulence dropped abruptly and only seven people were infected, causing three fatalities. It rose again in 2012, infecting 89 people and killing 26 of them. The number of H1N1 deaths this year has already surpassed the number of those infected last year in just 10 weeks.

Dr Sandeep Malhan, a reputed doctor associated with a major municipal hospital here, told Khaleej Times that more than half of all those infected by the flu this year had recovered and discharged from various hospitals, and Gujarat currently ranked 17th in the list of states reporting infections in terms of number of cases since 2009.

According to Health Minister Nitin Patel, in various state-run and private hospitals, the H1N1 test costing Rs5,000 was now free. Doctors say closed and crowded spaces such as offices and air-conditioned homes aid the spread of the disease, adding that the infection can also be avoided by washing hands frequently and wearing masks.

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