First case reported from city

The district health administration and the H1N1 Cell have renewed the alert against H1N1 infection after the season's first case of H1N1 in the district was picked up in a Poojappura resident through routine surveillance.

“Ever since the Union Health Ministry issued a general alert on H1N1 to all States in March, we had heightened the routine surveillance of H1N1. Throat swab samples from three randomly selected cases coming to our outpatient clinics with fever, cold, or influenza-like illnesses are being sent daily for testing. This gives us an idea of how many fever and cold cases could actually be H1N1,” Amar Fettle, State Nodal Officer, H1N1, told The Hindu.

Health officials said that while this was only a general alert and there was no heightened threat, there was no room for complacency either. Ante-natal women and the elderly with comorbidities were a seriously vulnerable group.

Special instructions have been issued to district medical officers to direct all health field workers to visit the antenatal cases in the district once every three days and start Tamiflu prophylaxis for the women as soon as any symptoms of fever or cold are suspected. In 2010, 32 ante-natal deaths had been reported in the State.

The public and a large section of the medical community believe that the last three years of H1N1 incidence have rendered the entire community immune to the infection.

“Studies done in the latter half of last year in northern districts found the sero prevalence of H1N1 antibodies in the community to be just 24 per cent, while it was much higher in the southern districts. Technically, over 90 per cent of the community would have contracted at least mild forms of H1N1 but only a higher titre of antibodies (level or concentration of antibodies against H1N1) would render full immunity against the infection,” Dr. Fettle said.

Directions had been issued through the Directorate of Health Services to all districts in March to send at least two throat swabs daily for H1N1 testing. Yet, in the past two months, only about 200 throat swabs have gone for testing from across the State, indicating the general complacency about the infection among the medical community.

A look at the national figures on H1N1 infection from January to April will certainly make one sit up. Across India, 987 cases of H1N1 have been reported in the past four months, apart from 59 deaths. The distribution of cases are as follows: Andhra Pradesh (115), Karnataka (171), Maharashtra (487), Rajasthan (116), Tamil Nadu (61) and Kerala (14). The number of H1N1 deaths: Andhra Pradesh (12), Karnataka (8), Maharashtra (20), Rajasthan (12), and Tamil Nadu (2).

The threat is certainly not imaginary, especially when one can never rule out mutations in the virus or change in disease patterns.

The Health Department has also directed all medical officers to follow the ABC guidelines issued by the Union Health Ministry for treatment of influenza cases. The public should maintain the general cold etiquette.