The city recorded eight cases of swine flu in January, the highest number of cases recorded in this month since 2016. Experts said this could because a change in the strain of the virus has made the disease more of a routine influenza rather a seasonal occurrence. Swine flu is a respiratory disease and its symptoms include fever, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body ache and fatigue.
Every year, cases of swine flu, caused by the H1N1 virus, are usually reported between June and August as the fluctuations in temperature create a suitable environment for the pathogen to thrive. For the first time since 2016, swine flu cases have been reported in January. While three confirmed cases were reported in December 2019, there were eight cases reported in January.
Health officials from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said that all eight patients were hospitalised and treated successfully.
Medical experts said these numbers may reflect changes in the strain of H1N1 virus that causes swine flu. “Fluctuation in temperature and high moisture content in the air are conducive for the spread of H1N1 virus and therefore, we recorded highest cases in monsoon season. But there has been a revolution in trend in the last five years. Due to change in the strain, it has become an annual influenza which now occurs anytime in the year,” said Dr Om Srivastava, a city-based epidemiologist.
There is also speculation that screening for the patients afflicted with the new strain of coronavirus may have led to more swine flu patients being diagnosed.
“Recently, a 26-year-old woman was quarantined with the travel history of Singapore after she developed symptoms similar to those of coronavirus. But her test reports diagnosed her with swine flu,” said Suresh Kakani, additional commissioner, BMC. “As there is a fear among people about coronavirus, more number of people also came forward for checking, contributing to identifying more cases of swine flu.”
With changes in the strain of H1N1 virus, doctors recommended precautionary measures, especially for those who have any respiratory illness or a compromised immune system. “It is always advisable to get vaccinated. Every year, the Central government releases new vaccines depending on the strain of the virus,” said Dr Pradeep Awate, state epidemiologist. He also suggested antiviral medicines as a precautionary measure.
As HT previously reported, the city recorded 451 cases of swine flu with five deaths in 2019, which is significantly higher than the statistics from 2018, when only 25 cases were recorded with no casualties. This is because every alternate year, the number of cases increases with the change in the strain of the virus.