The Union Health Ministry is scrambling and struggling to help states contain outbreaks of swine flu, as a spike in cases nationwide is causing panic.
India’s flu season typically brings with it cases of swine flu infection. This has proved to be a cause for concern in years past. Notably, a 2015 outbreak of the virus resulted in more than 31,000 cases and 1,895 deaths.
This year’s flu season has brought with it more than 6,700 cases of swine flu as of February 3rd, 2019. North India is the most heavily afflicted with the disease. Just four states from the region – Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, and Rajasthan – are believed to account for 61 per cent.
“A recurring trend is a disparity between the figures being reported by officials and figures being reported by hospitals”
At the time of writing, swine flu has claimed 226 lives across India according to official estimates. Rajasthan is thought to be the worst-hit state. It has lost 85 lives to the disease, with more than 2,000 testing positive for swine flu infection. Delhi has reported approximately 1,000 cases, prompting officials to issue a health advisory.
A recurring trend is a disparity between the figures being reported by officials and figures being reported by hospitals. Delhi’s Directorate General of Health Services reported only the state’s first swine flu death on Tuesday. However, a number of city hospitals have recorded multiple fatalities from the illness. In Uttarakhand state capital Dehradun, official reports of infections and deaths from swine flu matched the figure for just one hospital.
This apparent trend of misreporting could be manifest in a concerning statement by doctors, who have warned that most swine flu cases may be going unreported. Any understatement of the swine flu burden in India could hinder efforts to contain outbreaks of the virus and potentially lead to it spreading further.
“It is clear that India’s swine flu outbreak has the potential to get out of hand very quickly”
Another hindrance to responding to swine flu outbreaks is poor infrastructural quality. Daily News and Analysis notes that states with no prior history of swine flu, such as Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, are now registering cases. Meanwhile, DNA notes, “testing labs are few and far between…the number of ventilators are next to negligible; and despite standing orders to put in place isolation wards in government hospitals, the number of those affected is just too staggering for such limited resources.”
It is clear that India’s swine flu outbreak has the potential to get out of hand very quickly and, unless the appropriate measures are put into place, it is potential for an infectious disease outbreak to spiral beyond the control of central and state government authorities. Without appropriate surveillance and infrastructure, this is far from potentiality. It looms large as a probability.