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Swine flu cases in Gujarat: Symptom of a national problem?

Copyright: rupaghosh / 123RF Stock Photo
Motorists in Patna wear face masks to protect against swine flu. 

Gujarat recorded the second-highest number of swine flu cases in India in just under the first seven months of 2019, the Gujarat High Court has been informed. 

Between January 1st and June 23rd, 4,772 cases were recorded resulting in 149 deaths. Only Rajasthan recorded more cases while Rajasthan and Maharashtra recorded more fatalities. At the national level, 1,079 people lost their lives to swine flu within the same period whilst 26,140 cases were recorded, according to Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey. Rajasthan has recorded 5,021 cases and 205 deaths – meaning that the two states alone account for almost forty percent of the total swine flu burden in the country. 

The volume of cases and casualties d, iue to the disease is suggestive of negligent handling by the Gujarat state government, lawyer K. R. Koshti alleged before the High Court. “This reveals that the state has not taken effective steps for prevention and control of swine flu,” he asserted. 

Swine flu has been plaguing Gujarat throughout the year. The state recorded more than 3,000 cases and 99 deaths within the first two months of 2019 alone, The Hindu reported in March – a rate of almost 100 new cases each day.  Indeed, the spread of swine flu across multiple states has been cause for alarm, especially given their rapid pace when compared with previous years. In the case of Haryana, for example, 490 swine flu cases were recorded in the space of a month – surpassing its annual total of cases for every year since 2012. 

A relatively recent phenomenon, swine flu arrested global headlines following an outbreak which originated in Mexico in 2009 and swiftly spread across borders to become an international public health concern. In India, outbreaks of the disease occur regularly with 38,111 cases recorded in 2017. The disease is often more prevalent during the monsoon season. 

As such, especially during the monsoon period, it is incumbent upon authorities to act against the disease, ensuring robust monitoring systems and vaccination drives to be with a chance of preventing large-scale outbreaks. The case before the Gujarat High Court concerning the state government’s handling of swine flu – due to be heard again on August 29th – could shed more light on the factors behind the state’s high burden of the disease. What is already clear is that authorities across all quarters of India cannot afford to be negligent or complacent in the face of the disease, but rather must be proactive and vigilant. 

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