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H1N1 claims more lives in Maharashtra

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Motorists in Patna wear face masks to protect against swine flu.

H1N1 has claimed more than 200 lives in Maharashtra this year, as the state continues to be a hotspot of the disease in India.

Commonly known as ‘swine flu’, H1N1 has been a blight on public health in India in recent years. An outbreak in 2015 recorded 42,592 cases and 2,990 deaths. After a plateau in cases the following year, cases reached 38,811 in 2017 with 2,270 deaths. The disease has taken a particular toll in Maharashtra, with the state recording 33,824 cases and 3,637 deaths in the last decade. 

So far this year, 2,259 cases and 239 deaths due to H1N1 have been reported by the state health department. A high number of deaths occurred in Pune, which recorded 52 fatalities, whilst state capital Mumbai has recorded the most cases, with 642. Nagpur trails Pune with the second-highest number of fatalities, with 44, and also records the second-highest number of cases after Mumbai, with 329. 

Within the same period last year, Maharashtra recorded 216 deaths due to H1N1. As the winter season gets underway, experts project the swine flu burden to worsen. 

To cope with the disease burden and to reduce mortality, timely treatment and diagnosis is the need of the hour according to experts. Symptoms of H1N1 are similar to other strains of influenza, such as fever, chills, cough, headaches, sore throat and body aches. “If patients keep an eye on the symptoms and approach doctors for quick diagnosis, we will be able to control the cases,” Dr Om Srivastava, infectious diseases department head at Jaslok Hospital, said earlier this year. 

Indeed, as recently stated by Dr Subhash Salunkhe, who heads Maharashtra’s technical advisory committee on infectious diseases, timely diagnosis is needed. “Assessment of patients who succumbed to swine flu-induced complications showed that delay in treatment was one of the main reasons for complications and deaths,” he said. 

For vulnerable populations, particularly those with co-morbidities, ignoring potential swine flu symptoms could be fatal. As pointed out earlier this year by Dr Sudhur Patsute, superintendent of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC)-run Naidu Hospital, “deaths in swine flu usually occur in high-risk patients with underlying medical conditions including diabetes, hypertension, obesity, respiratory ailments and those who are immunocompromised. If these high-risk people ignore the symptoms, they may land up in complications.”

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