A swine flu lab has been inaugurated in Punjab as part of ongoing efforts to curb the disease in India.
A relatively recent phenomenon, swine flu – officially known as H1N1 – came to prominence with a spate of global outbreaks which began in Mexico in 2009. In India, the disease has become an issue of significant public health concern. 38,811 cases of the disease were recorded in 2017, while a large-scale outbreak in 2015 claimed 1,895 lives.
This year saw swine flu cases spike during the country’s flu season, with more than 6,700 cases reported till February 3rd. More than 160 deaths were reported in January alone.
A recurring trend has been the disparity between the number of swine flu cases reported by hospitals and the number provided by official figures. This suggests that the true scale of the crisis may belie official estimates.
The installation of the swine flu lab in Punjab could go some way towards assisting efforts in tackling the disease. The lab will be housed at the Department of Microbiology at the Dayanand Medical Hospital and College (DMHC). Prem Kumar Gupta, the Secretary of the DMHC Managing Society, conducted the inauguration. Officials including the facility’s Principal, Dr Sandeep Muri, and Dean of Academics, Dr Rajoo Singh Chhina, were also in attendance.
Punjab was one of the four worst-affected states during the spike in swine flu cases earlier this year. Together with Delhi, Haryana, and Rajasthan, Punjab accounted for 61 percent of swine flu cases in the country.
State health minister Brahm Mohindra said at the end of February that the disease had claimed 31 lives in four months, though opposition Members of the Legislative Assembly claimed the death toll was much higher. As mentioned above, this is a recurring trend and underreporting of the disease will only stymie efforts to counteract it – no matter how many labs are opened.