After a high number of cholera cases in the state, Maharashtra has now surpassed the swine flu tally of entire last year in the first seven months of 2022. The fatalities due to swine flu also surged 10-fold compared to the previous year.
Swine flu is a human respiratory infection caused by an influenza strain that started in pigs. In 2020, the state had witnessed 129 swine flu cases with three deaths while in the next year, there were 387 cases and two deaths due to the infection.
This year, till July 31, the total number of cases has climbed to 552, recording a 42.6 per cent surge in the first seven months. The mortality due to swine flu has surged to 20, the highest since 2020. Of this, Mumbai reported a total of 142 swine flu cases, followed by the area under Pune municipality, where 114 patients were detected with the infection, out of which eight succumbed, the highest toll within Maharashtra. Thane witnessed 82 swine flu cases with three deaths. A total of 54 patients were diagnosed with swine flu in Kolhapur, of which four patients succumbed, the second highest toll in the state.
Analysis of the data given by the Health Department shows that there has been an over two-fold rise in monthly detection of cases. In 2021, the state witnessed an average of 32 swine flu cases per month which, in the last seven months, has more than doubled to reach 79.
A total of 5,77,847 patients have been screened for swine flu across the state as of July 31, according to a Health Department official. Of those screened, 7,093 suspected flu patients were treated with Oseltamivir, a recommended drug both for prophylaxis and treatment of influenza. A total of 301 patients had to be hospitalised, of which 11 required ventilation in the same time period.
“We have already alerted all the districts. District hospitals have been instructed to keep separate beds ready to handle any sudden surge in cases,” said a Health Department official.
Dr Hemlata Arora, senior consultant, Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Nanavati Hospital, said the influenza virus has remained highly infectious since the 2009 swine flu pandemic. The current strain is as infectious, if not more, causing more severe outcomes than other influenza strains, said Dr Arora.
Due to the presence of multiple influenza strains, a different strain emerges as dominant each year. It is important to take into account these changes in strain types and sub-types when developing vaccines to ensure maximum efficacy. Some common symptoms in patients are fever, cough, cold, headache, body ache and even breathing difficulties. As these symptoms are also common in those with Covid-19, doctors have to be extra cautious while diagnosing patients.
“The sudden surge in swine flu cases is due to a particular variant. There is always a seasonal surge of flu and its variants like swine flu, usually seen around June every year. The cases were low in the last two years due to Covid-19 restrictions like masking. But now, since lockdown restrictions are being eased, people are not masking up as frequently, which has led to increased cases,” said Dr Anita Mathew, infectious disease specialist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund.
Dr Arora, who is currently treating 8-10 swine flu patients, said, “Despite influenza prevalence being similar among all age groups, the majority of hospitalisations is observed among elderly patients.”
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Meanwhile, in a rare case, a 20-year-old got a new lease of life after being co-infected with leptospirosis and swine flu in Mumbai. Sanjay Chauhan, a resident of Colaba, was visiting his brother-in-law in Kalwa when he fell into a drain. After five days, he started suffering from breathing problems and couldn’t even stand on his feet. On July 22, when he was admitted to Bombay Hospital, his kidneys, liver and lungs were already failing and he was ventilated.
His doctor, Dr Gautam Bhansali, ran several diagnoses and Chauhan tested positive both for leptospirosis and H1N1. To help him breathe, Dr Bhansali placed him in proning position where he was laid on his abdomen – a technique used during the pandemic. Chauhan’s condition improved and he was finally discharged on Wednesday.