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Swine Flu Could Spread Faster in Gujarat During Navratri Revelries

The Navratri season in Gujarat this year is fraught with the risk of H1N1, or swine flu as it’s commonly called. As on 12 October, the number of cases shot up to 1,303 with 33 reported fatalities. The highest number of cases were reported in Ahmedabad at 567, with 13 fatalities.

Meanwhile, Surat reported 107 cases, Mehsana 60 cases, Vadodara 68, Gandhinagar 30, and Sabarkanatha reported 26 cases. The risk of the disease spreading is much higher during the festival of Navratri, when most of Gujarat enjoys Garba Raas and Dandiya across the state.

“Swine Flu is a fomite-borne disease and spreads easily when an infected person starts coughing and sneezing in crowded areas. That is why we have appealed to people not to venture out of their homes, especially to participate in Navratri revelries if they have a fever or flu.”
Dr Gaurav Dahiya (IAS), Mission Director, National Health Scheme, Government of Gujarat

Fomites are dust particles containing infectious cold virus that remain after droplets of infected saliva are coughed into the air.

Swine Flu: A Yearly Affair

Each year, Swine Flu rears its morbid head across the country, ending the lives of thousands. Over 1.14 lakh persons were infected by the H1N1 virus between 2010-2017, which claimed 8,543 lives (as on October 2017). Gujarat is the second-worst hit state across the country with 18,206 cases and 431 fatalities.

The year 2015 was the worst, with the highest reported cases (42,592 cases, 2990 deaths) across the country, according to an Indian Express report. By 26 August 2017, 4,632 cases and 331 fatalities were reported in Gujarat alone.

In comparison, the figures for 2018 are better, yet it begs the question – why does swine flu return each year and why have we not been able to tackle it?

Dr Manoj Vithlani who is attached with HCG Hospital in Ahmedabad told The Quint that the infection is seasonal and spreads fast during post-monsoon and pre-winter months.

“The thing is the virus attacks those persons who have low immunity and wreaks havoc. Those with good immunity may have minor flu-like symptoms but do not stay back at home. Instead they venture out for the jobs and businesses and become carriers of the disease, which spreads through coughing and sneezing, especially in densely populated areas such as Ahmedabad.”
Dr Manoj Vithlani, HCG Hospital, Ahmedabad

Government in Damage Control

A PIL was filed by one Manasvi Thapar through advocate KR Koshti in the Gujarat High Court. It contended that the state government was not taking enough steps to prevent the spread of disease despite there being a sharp rise in cases. It claimed that the lack of infrastructure and shortage of doctors were aggravating the situation.

In an affidavit in response to the PIL, the state government on 8 October, told the court that measures, including mass surveillance and setting up of a special helpline number, were being put in place to control the spread of the disease.

“Community diagnosis and treatment camps are being organised in remote areas and personal hygiene practices are being popularised in places of mass gathering such as Navratri. Hand sanitisers and first-aid facilities will be provided at Navratri pandals.
Gujarat State Government’s Affidavit

As per the affidavit, four rounds of house-to-house surveillance were conducted by the district administration and municipal corporations for early diagnosis and prompt treatment. The government further said that a 104 helpline number has been set up for people to avail of health check-ups at home.

Special laboratories have been set up in nine government hospitals, it said, adding that eight private laboratories were also providing facilities to detect the disease, which requires isolation.

“We are conducting household surveys and have classified Swine Flu symptoms as Type A, B and C – Type A being the least serious. For Type B, we are prescribing Oseltamivir capsules to the patient. When we diagnose Type C symptoms, we immediately admit the patient to the hospital and put them under a ventilator till they are out of risk.”
Dr Gaurav Dahiya (IAS), Mission Director, National Health Scheme, Government of Gujarat

(With Inputs from PTI)

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Updated: October 12, 2018 — 1:22 pm
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