Swine flu: BBMP, wake up and act

People come for a check-up at H1N1 flu ward at the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases (RGICD), Bengaluru. DH Photo/Shivakumar B H

The past month has witnessed an increase in the number of Influenza-A or swine flu cases and deaths across the country. In Karnataka alone, some 542 people are reported to have tested positive for the H1N1 virus and eight people have died after contracting swine flu. The large number of cases over the past month indicates that the season for the spread of the H1N1 virus is here. According to official figures, only 20 people tested positive for H1N1 in Karnataka between January and August 2018. Forty-four cases were detected in Bengaluru alone in the month of September. And now the number of cases in the state has surged to 542. Bengaluru and Shivamogga top the list of swine flu cases, with 99 and 60 cases respectively. While the situation in Karnataka and other parts of the country is not yet alarming, it is serious enough to merit the focused attention of health authorities. Media reports have drawn attention to the shortage of medicines in several private hospitals in Bengaluru. Stocks are yet to be replenished by government authorities. This indicates that the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s preparedness to tackle a possible H1N1 epidemic is below par. BBMP health authorities must act immediately to ensure that government and private hospitals are well stocked with testing kits and medicines.

Swine flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness. Fighting the H1N1 virus is not easy. It spreads quickly. Besides, swine flu symptoms are similar to those of other kinds of influenza. Cough and cold, which are common during the monsoons and winter, are among the symptoms of swine flu, too. This means that many people with these symptoms do not go to see the doctor immediately, thinking they have the usual flu. By the time they realise that they could be suffering from swine flu, it is too late. On the other hand, there are those who, fearing that they have swine flu even when they are not, reach out for drugs like Tamiflu that are used to treat swine flu. Such people are in danger of becoming resistant to swine flu medication.

In addition to ensuring adequate availability of testing kits and medicines, health authorities must spread awareness about swine flu, its symptoms and treatment. Those suffering from the disease must avoid going to public places as they could infect others. The elderly, children, pregnant women and those whose immunity is low should be careful as they are likely to contract the disease easily. The importance of washing one’s hands before eating, wearing a mask and drinking plenty of fluids need to be underscored in a massive campaign.

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Swine flu: BBMP, wake up and act

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