Swine flu grips India tighter and tighter
The number cases of the disease have crossed 6,700-mark this year in the country

In Delhi, 1,011 people have been tested positive for swine flu between January 1, 2019 and February 3, 2019, which includes 712 adults and 183 children. Also, 85 people have died of the disease in the same period in Rajasthan with most deaths (25) being recorded in Jodhpur district. That’s not it. While Punjab has seen 30 swine flu deaths in this period, Himachal Pradesh has had 14 people lose their lives to the disease. Countrywide 6701 swine flu cases have been registered and 226 people have succumbed to the disease.

H1N1: 6701 cases in 2019

(Last updated till 03 February 2019)
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H1N1: 226 deaths in 2019

(Last updated till 03 February 2019)
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Data: National Centre for Disease Control, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

Rise and fall of the disease

According to Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP), 14,992 people contracted swine flu in 2018 and 1,103 of them died. In 2017, the number of cases stood at 38,811 and of them, 2,270 died.

Did you know?
In 2016, India recorded the highest number of H1N1 cases and deaths. The total number of people who were tested was 42,592 and of them, 2,992 died.

Swine flu was first reported in humans in India in 2009. Confusion and lack of information about the disease is believed to have suppressed the official figures of incidence and only 600 deaths were officially reported despite suspected cases popping up from across the country. In 2010, more than 20,000 cases were confirmed, of which 1,763 resulted in deaths.

In 2015, India had its worst tangle with the disease yet (2010-19) as — 137,323 cases and 10,614 deaths were reported nationwide. Maharashtra (26,689 cases, 3,183 deaths), Gujarat (21,298 cases, 1,798 deaths), Rajasthan (18,330 cases, 1,523 deaths), Madhya Pradesh (4,127 cases, 751 deaths), Karnataka (12,915 cases, 409 deaths) and Delhi (12,928 cases, 134 deaths) were the worst-hit states. The situation improved drastically in 2016 with just 1,786 cases and 265 deaths registered. This year, so far, seems to be a repeat of 2015, the hotspots, concentrated in Western India, too are reminiscent of India’s worst experience with the disease.

Seasonal Influenza (H1N1) - Year-wise number of cases and deaths from 2010 - 2019 (till 03 February 2019)

(in number of event)

Data: National Centre for Disease Control, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

Data: National Centre for Disease Control, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

Swine flu is caused by the Type A influenza virus and affects the respiratory system in humans. The virus, which originates in pigs, is not only extremely contagious, it is also airborne and spreads through coughs and sneezes. People with pre-existing respiratory conditions apart from older people, children and pregnant women have been found to be the most vulnerable to the disease. The virus has established itself as one of the most feared emerging diseases.

Climate connection

According to Dr Pradeep Awate, director, epidemiology, Maharashtra health department, and infectious diseases expert, climate change causes difficulty in controlling the disease. "Due to less rain and more wind, we saw the virus spread quickly. Hence, this year, due to unexpected climate changes, we still kept seeing a rise in positive cases of this virus," Awate told the media. Keeping in mind the current conditions, this could rise further.

Did you know? India has had its worst tangle with the disease in the past decade (2009-19) with 137,323 cases being registered and 10,614 people dying of the disease.

In fact, long-term climate change might have an impact on the spread of H1N1 virus in a unique way. Winters are bound to be warmer than usual due to global warming like the current season. This will reduce the spread of the virus in these months to some extent. But it will make people more vulnerable to the virus just after the cold season ends. This would require states to be ready to anticipate and tackle the spread of the disease.

Data source:

✸   National Centre for Disease Control, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Last updated 03 February 2019
✸   As it gets colder and drier, India may see more H1N1 cases, Down To Earth, 24 December 2018
✸   Pune medics advice yearly vaccinations to keep H1N1 at bay, Hindustan Times, 12 December 2018
✸   H1N1, Down To Earth
✸    Spiralling Temperature: seasonal warming trends in India, Lalit Maurya & Rakesh Kamal,
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), June 2017

✸   Key Facts about Human Infections with Variant Viruses, CDC