The number of swine flu cases reported across Maharashtra this year until September 12 has increased by 44 per cent compared to the total cases reported in 2019 before the pandemic. According to the data provided by the state health department, there were 2,278 H1N1 cases in 2019, which has now increased to 3,322 cases until September 12 this year. Meanwhile, 147 deaths have been recorded this year compared to 246 deaths during the same period in 2019.
However, more than 60 per cent of the cases are from five districts, of which Pune tops with 870 cases, followed by Mumbai (345), Thane (327), Nagpur (198), Nashik (197) and Kolhapur (155). State health officials said the numbers may see a rise in the next few days after the Ganpati festival.
A senior health official said most of the swine flu cases are being reported from the 19 districts of Maharashtra. Moreover, there have been more swine flu tests due to which the number of cases are being reported at a higher rate. However, this can render existing immunity from past infection ineffective as the virus evades the antibodies formed as a result of exposure to the earlier strains.
“Such antigenic drifts can cause year-to-year variability. Once every decade or so, larger changes in the virus or antigenic shift can have the potential of causing epidemics as the creation of a new strain can have the same effects as SARS-CoV-2 had on a naive population,” said the official.
Dr Umang Agrawal, Infectious Disease Specialist, P.D Hinduja Hospital and MRC, said, “Swine flu cases have been increasing over the past few weeks. One of the most important reasons is poor coverage of flu vaccination across the country. It is imperative to take flu shots to prevention against the new strain of virus encountered every year.
“The symptoms of the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu, develop within one to three days after you are exposed to the virus. Signs and symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, watery eyes, body ache, and headache. Practising hand hygiene, covering your face while coughing and sneezing, avoiding contact with people who are sick, avoiding touching face, nose and mouth are a few preventive measures,” he said.
Dr Pradeep Awate, state surveillance officer, said that ahead of the festive season, high-risk patients have been advised caution.
“Against the background of rising swine flu cases, festivals should be celebrated with due care. Persons suffering from an influenza-like illness should avoid public places. Persons with high-risk conditions should follow Covid appropriate behaviour while attending public functions. Those suffering from influenza-like illnesses should seek timely medical advice,” said Dr Awate.