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Swine flu can turn more lethal in winter
Published on 22 Jun. 2009 1:00 AM IST
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As the influenza A (H1N1) virus spreads across the globe, scientists in India are worried over the possibility of the second wave of the pandemic being more virulent. “There is much more to this virus than we understand, and nobody knows how lethal it could be in future. Presently, the hot summer is at our rescue. During the rainy and winter season the virus is likely to spread in a big way,” senior epidemiologist Narendra Arora said. In India, so far 59 people have tested positive for swine flu, including five human-to-human transfer cases. Arora, executive director of the Indian Clinical Epidemiology Network (IndiaCLEN), said surveillance is important to halt the mass spread of the virus and the country needs to prepare a database of the flu-affected people. “Every season 10 percent of the population is affected with common flu, and if the number in the coming season rises to 25-30 percent then we need to worry. We have to have a database of the people affected with swine flu in the country to check any unusual break,” said Arora. According to the health ministry, the present strain of the virus (H1N1) is a mild one and is reacting to the anti-flu medicine Tamiflu. The ministry said there are chances that the second wave could be more potent. Vineet Chawdhry, joint secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said: “It is altogether a new strain of virus and the infection is fairly moderate and treatable with the medicine. However, a second wave of the flu will be more potent and we are in the process of developing a vaccine for the flu.” Actually it is the history of the flu pandemics that is making scientists believe that the second wave of the flu could be deadly. “Flu pandemics historically come in waves, often getting worse as they go and there is a likelihood that swine flu may come back in a more severe form,” said Naresh Gupta, senior doctor at Maulana Azad Medical College in Delhi. “The 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic was considered the worst of all time that left 40 million people dead. The Spanish flu started with a mild wave in March, followed by a deadly second wave later in the year,” said Gupta. Shiv Lal, assistant scientist at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), said: “Pigs are an ideal mixing vessel for the virus and there is a possibility of the virus changing as it circulates. We have to watch the virus closely. Scientists across the globe are working to develop a vaccine for the flu that is likely to be effective during the second wave.” The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported 44,287 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza A (H1N1) infection from 94 countries as on June 19. The pandemic has claimed 180 lives. 59 Swine flu cases Three people - a Chennai couple and a teenage boy from the capital - Sunday tested positive for the swine flu, taking the total number of pandemic virus affected people in India to 59. Of these, 32 have been discharged after recovery and the remaining are stable, the health ministry said. The new cases reported include a 29-year-old man and his 25-year-old wife from Chennai and a 15-year old boy from the capital, said a health ministry statement. The couple travelled to Chennai from North Carolina, US, June 13 via Delhi transiting at New Jersey and Mumbai. They reported at the identified health facility the next day. The teenager arrived in Delhi from New York June 17 and admitted himself at an identified facility two days later. “Now the total number of people who tested positive from the capital is 16. However, this is nothing alarming. All contacts are being traced and we are also discharging those who have recovered. Today we discharged five or six people,” Delhi Health Secretary J.P. Singh told IANS. Indian health authorities have so far tested samples of 421 people, of whom 59 have tested positive for virus. Six of them are indigenous cases who got the infection from the positive cases who travelled from abroad. Among these people, 138 were identified through health screening at international airports, 20 through contact tracing and the rest had reported on their own. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported 44,287 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza A (H1N1) infection from 94 countries as on June 19. The pandemic has claimed 180 lives.

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