India was first hit by the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 with the swine flu attack that claimed many lives. Almost eight years since then, the viral illness has made its comeback – claiming around 600 lives in less than a year.

There have been an estimated 12,500 cases reported throughout India so far this year. Not that far away from India, Myanmar too has been affected again by H1N1 with 13 cases and 4 deaths so far.

H1N1 cases on the rise

Breaking down the most affected areas in India, Maharashtra revealed to be impacted the most with around 284 deaths. The other deaths have been reported in Gujarat, Kerala and Rajasthan. This year, in the month of July alone, it’s been reported around 241 people tested positive for swine flu.

According to doctors, the number of deaths could be higher than what has been reported. The director general of health services, Dr Jagdish Prasad, said, “People are visiting hospitals late. This is why there have been more deaths. If patients are put on Tamiflu (the drug approved for treating swine flu) as soon as clinical symptoms appear, many lives could be saved.”

Due to the huge spreading of the H1N1 virus, clinicians are now suspecting that the virus may have been mutated. Initially, H1N1 was spread through pigs; and now by the looks of the high number of cases that is being reported – it seems that the virus is being transmitted from human to human.

Clueless on how the H1N1 pandemic is unfolding

Currently, the rising trend of influenza is being investigated in Maharashtra by a central rapid response team. And doctors are taking notice of the high level that the H1N1 pandemic is spreading fast in India.

In an interview with The Wire, the chairman of the Maharashtra Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Technical Committee, said, “Nobody, literally nobody, has been able to throw light on what is happening.” It doesn’t help either that India has not done much to promote vaccinations as a way out of this pandemic.

As of now, many are suspecting that this sudden outbreak might just be due to a yet-undetected H1N1 viral mutation. The deputy director of the National Institute of Virology (NIV) begs to differ by saying that the H1N1 virus “seems to have evolved slightly through possible antigenic drift but has not mutated.”

A senior consultant at Apollo Hospitals said that the National Institute of Virology and National Centre for Disease Control should step up and investigate why there has been a sudden spurt in swine flu cases. Dr Suranjit Chatterjee also mentioned that clinicians need to be on the lookout throughout the year when it comes to the characteristic symptoms of swine flu, so that lives can be saved.

Panic in Myanmar

In Myanmar, the Ministry of Health and Sports confirmed four cases of H1N1 in Yangon and 10 cases in Matupi, west of Myanmar as of 27 July.

Speaking on the rising number of H1N1 cases in Myanmar, Dr. Win Lwin, director of the Yangon regional health department, expressed that “there is no need to panic because it usually happens every year.” Even with such assurance, the people of Myanmar are taking extra precautions by wearing masks to protect themselves. In 2009, around 66 people contracted the H1N1 in Myanmar, which included mostly the younger population.

As of now, Myanmar’s government claims that it will release news updates regarding this situation in order not to create panic among the general public. The government also assured that instructions have already been disseminated to all the health staff, so that their hospitals and clinics are ready for treatments and responses.

The deputy director general at the ministry's infectious diseases department also claimed that the government in Myanmar currently has no effective vaccines or treatments for H1N1. The treatments that are being used for H1N1 affected patients right now have very little effect on the patients. MIMS

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