Maharashtra has recorded 247 swine flu deaths out of 525 across the country since January 1, 2017, which is also the highest in the country. City-based doctors in government hospitals and Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) health department have noted that swine flu is now an endemic disease, which means that it can be diagnosed all throughout the year.
Speaking about the current situation of swine flu in the city, Anjali Sabne, Assistant Medical Officer, Health Department at PMC, said that H1N1 tends to affect those people more who have lower immunity. “The virus is endemic in nature, which is present all the time. It is affecting those people more that have diseases like hypertension, asthma and pregnant women and hence more care of these high risk patients should be taken,” mentioned Sabne. Another doctor from a government-run hospital in the city, on condition of anonymity, noted that Pune is a medical hub and good infrastructure invites people from various stratas to come to the city.
Why more patients from outside Pune?
Out of 67 deaths in Pune municipal limits, 48 reported were from outside Pune. Out of these 48 deaths, 12 are from Pune rural, 11 patients were from Ahmednagar, five from Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), four patients each from Latur and Satara, two each from Shirur, Baramati, Solapur and Khadki Cantonment and one each from Osmanabad, Kolhapur and Pune Cantonment.
Speaking about the inflow of patients from other towns to Pune, a doctor based in a government hospital in Pune noted that the number of patients in Pune is more and hence the city is able to provide better infrastructure to all patients.
“Towns like Ahmednagar have facilities, but not as good as Pune. Also the inflow of overall swine flu patients in Pune helps the hospitals to manage and run a better Intensive Care Unit (ICU). However, the same unit is not cost effective in towns like Ahmednagar or Satara. Hence, many patients prefer coming to the city,” said the doctor.
High risk patients
The doctor also noted that the high risk patients, especially those having low immunity, should be the target to avoid any more deaths. Out of 67 death cases in PMC limits, 28 had hypertension, diabetes and 20 patients died due to self-delay in treatment. “H1N1 is now as common as any other flu and will remain around us all through the year. Its incidence rate is 10 to 12 per cent, however, fatalities are as small as 0.03 per cent. There were other viruses like ebola where fatalities were around 70 per cent, which is not the case here. Hence, it should be ensured that patients, who are diagnosed positive with the flu, are treated as early as possible, without delay and with proper medication,” the doctor said.
He further noted that pregnant women, asthma patients and patients with lung, kidney, hypertension and obesity problems are more susceptible.
Vaccination a solution?
Emphasising about preventive measures, early diagnosis, the doctor noted that many patients are seen delaying the treatment. “A rigorous vaccination drive must be undertaken by the government and these vaccinations should be available at private hospitals to reduce the number of fatalities. These vaccinations should be given to people already suffering from some lung or liver disease. Death audits across the State have shown that out of the total H1N1 deaths so far, close to 70 per cent people have been diagnosed with some other illness as well,” stressed the doctor.
He further added that H1N1 is a virus, which spreads in the air and nothing can be done to prevent this. “The climate in the city is more suitable for its survival and hence we can see cases throughout the year. To endure less deaths, vaccination can help to a large extent. Also, earlier the virus is seen changing its appearance a little every year. Earlier, the virus could not survive in very humid regions, but it can be seen spreading in Mumbai as well,” mentioned the doctor.