Amid the massive Coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak in India, cases of influenza virus H1N1 infection, commonly known as swine flu, also emerged in the country, but failed to make the headlines.
Swine flu, a communicable respiratory disease caused by a subtype of influenza A virus called H1N1 was first reported in 2009 globally and soon, it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation on June 11, 2009.
Fever, runny nose, sore throat, and cough followed by difficulty in breathing are some of the symptoms of swine flu. To prevent it, medical experts and doctors have advised to maintain personal hygiene, wash hands and wear face masks.
According to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), as many as 1132 people in last two months have tested positive of the H1N1 flu across the country with 18 confirmed deaths as on February 23, 2020.
The two deadly viruses surfaced simultaneously this year posing a threat to many lives and increasing pressure on the healthcare sector across the globe.
Even as several experts claim that there is no need to fear as the H1N1 virus is not as contagious as the novel coronavirus, the number of deaths due to swine flu in India stood at a whopping 1,218 in 2019 with a total of 28,798 cases reported as per the NCDC data.
A woman from Manipur and two children, a 10-year-old girl from Hooghly and a boy from Odisha were put in isolation and treated for swine flu at a private hospital in Kolkata on March 13. A man, who returned from Saudi Arabia to Murshidabad last week, was also detected with swine flu and was admitted to the Beliaghata ID hospital in Kolkata on the same day.
On Feb 29, a group of doctors arrived in UP's Meerut after over 400 personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) were suspected to have contracted swine flu. Of the 400, 19 tested positive for the virus.
Last month, a German software company, SAP closed its offices across India to carry out an "extensive sanitation" process, after two of its employees tested positive for H1N1 at its Bengaluru headquarters.
Five supreme court judges of India were reportedly diagnosed with the flu in the last week of February. While three of them continued to remain at work, two are were put in isolation.
While all the preparations and precautions are being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the outbreak of swine flu in India has remained out of focus, when it should be a priority. The WHO recommends composition of the influenza virus vaccine for use every year.
"Coronavirus is far away. What we need to be really dealing with is the cases of H1N1 and it is important that people are made aware of the hand hygiene and those who are at risk to take the vaccination," Dr Satayanarayana Mysore, Head of the Department, Interventional Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine at the Manipal Hospitals Bengaluru told the media.
"The reason why it is recurring each year is because the virus is undergoing mutation every year and is trying to evade the human immune system that is why the vaccines are also reconstituted every year with different strains of virus," he added.
Also Read: 6 Supreme Court Judges Contract H1N1 Virus