H1N1 returns: what can be done to control the virus:

H1N1 returns: what can be done to control the virus: (The Hindu, Editorial) (H1N1 returns: Preventive measures you should take)

Context:

At least 22 people died of H1N1 infections in Mumbai in 2017, and more than 500 cases were registered

Statistics related to H1N1 virus:

  • This year, 12,500 people have been infected with the influenza a H1N1 virus, of which 600 have died.
  • According to official data, Maharashtra alone account for 284 deaths, which by itself is much more than the total mortality figure of 265 in the country as a result of H1N1 in 2016.
  • Even in the first three months of 2017, the number of cases and deaths were fairly high , at over 6,000 and 160, respectively.
  • The whole genome sequencing carried out at Pune’s National Institute of Virology.
  • For instance, the California strain had been circulating around the world since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. But, as a result of point mutations, a new strain- the Michigan stain –emerged last year.
  • India witnessed the circulation of both the California and Michigan strains in 2016.
  • This year, surveillance revealed that the H1N1 virus found in India is only the Michigan strain.

Key points:

  • As in the case of the California strain, the Michigan strain too is susceptible to the drug Oseltamivir.
  • In order to make to the drug widely available and easily accessible, the drug was moved from Schedule X to Schedule H1 last month.
  • Timely diagnosis and easy availability of the drug are expected to reduce mortality.
  • There are total 42 laboratories providing diagnostic services across the country, and there is compelling need to increase this number.
  • Since the 2009 pandemic, H1Ni has become a seasonal flu virus strain in India even during the peak of summer.

What is H1N1 virus?

  • H1N1 virus or swine flu is a respiratory disorder.
  • According to WHO, the virus is a strain of influenza.
  • It is commonly known as swine flu because it was detected in patients who were directly in contact with pig.
  • According to WHO, genetic analyses of the virus shows that it originated from animal influenza viruses.
  • It was detected for the first time in North America in April 2009, after which it rapidly spread all around the world.
  • In June 2009, the disease spread across 74 countries and territories.

What are the causes?

  • As per WHO, the H1N1 virus spreads just like other seasonal influenza viruses.
  • It spreads from exposure to an infected person.
  • When an infected person coughs or sneezes, he/she leaves behind infected droplets. Exposure to these infected droplets can contaminate hands and surfaces.

What are the symptoms of the virus?

  • The symptoms of H1N1 are similar to season flu.
  • The symptoms included cough, fever, sore theat, runny nose, headache and bodyache.
  • In extreme cases, the patient also feels chills and fatigue.
  • The swine flu, like every other regular flu, can develop into serious problems such as pneumonia, lung infection and other breathing problems.

Solutions:

  • The solution to reduce the number of cases and deaths is by framing a national policy for influenza immunization
  • Better awareness
  • More robust surveillance system
  • There is need to have both qualitative and quantitative data on the vulnerable population
  • Vaccinating health-care workers who come in contact with high-risk patients should be given priority.
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