Swine flu is back in India and despite our history with the deadly virus, hospitals seem unprepared, and the number of deaths, unprecedented. Medically known as Influenza A or H1N1, swine flu has led to over 8,423 reported cases and more than 585 deaths in 2015 alone. Compare this with 2014, when there were 937 reported cases and 218 deaths in India.
While ‘swine flu’ got its peculiar name because people dealing directly with pigs first fell victim to it, in 2009, a new virus has since emerged that affects even those not in contact with the animal. This time the spread of the virus has been rapid, with patients often dying within two days and medicines having no effect.
The states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and the recently- formed Telangana are those that have reported most of India’s cases. Rajasthan has registered the largest number: 2,569 cases and 165 deaths. However, cases are being reported from other states as well. Each shot of the swine flu vaccine costs between Rs 500 and Rs 1,000. The lack of affordable vaccines is also seen as a reason for the rising number of deaths.
The Union Health Ministry has reportedly said that states which have a stock of swine flu drugs should transfer it to those states that need it, as widely reported shortages have resulted in panic among people. Some chemist shops in Mumbai are already claiming to be out of stock of the relevant drug. Delhi has had a scare too, with the drug hard to locate. The spurt in the number of cases could even lead to the disease being termed an ‘outbreak’. To contain the spread of the virus, several awareness campaigns are being held across the country. Swine flu is highly contagious and its symptoms resemble those of the common flu— such as cough, fever, a runny nose, body ache, fatigue and chills.