Official denies reports that the virus has mutated and is not curable

With the number of A H1N1 (swine flu) cases increasing steadily, the Union Government on Wednesday said there was no cause for panic as the situation was well under control and being monitored.

An official in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare denied reports in a section of the media that the virus has mutated and is not curable. The virus had not mutated to a more virulent form. Neither had it changed its character. A central stockpile of about 8 million doses of Oseltamivir (antiviral drug that slows the spread of influenza virus) was being maintained.

The Director of the National Institute of Virology in Pune clarified that the presently circulating strain of H1N1 pandemic virus belonged to clade 6 and 7. (Clade is the medical terminology used to describe related organisms descended from a common ancestor). These clades are circulating in many countries and are treatable with Oseltamivir

Antigenic vaccine

The vaccine can be used as antigenic (antigen is a substance that when introduced into the body stimulates the production of an antibody. Antigens include toxins, bacteria, foreign blood cells, and the cells of transplanted organs). There was no mutation to suggest change of virus to a ‘dangerous form.'

More than 21 A H1N1-related deaths have been reported and over 400 people affected with the virus since February this year.

The World Health Organisation, while declaring the pandemic to be over in August 2010, had conveyed that the influenza H1N1 pandemic virus would take on the behaviour of seasonal influenza virus and continue to circulate for some years to come. Hence, in the post-pandemic period, localised outbreaks of varying magnitude with significant level of H1N1 transmission are expected. Subsequent to this declaration, India had experienced major outbreaks during August to October, 2010 and again from May, 2011 to July 2011.

Rise in cases

In March-April this year, there were increased number of cases of pandemic Influenza A H1N1 reported from Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Small pockets of population that remained unexposed earlier to the pandemic, and were consequently susceptible, would be affected.

In March first week, almost 30 per cent of referred samples were positive for H1N1 in Pune. This had come down to approximately 10 per cent now, a statement issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said.

Influenza-like illness

A large number of these cases would show mild influenza-like illness and as such required no testing or anti-viral drug treatment. However, it is important to get oneself examined at the nearest hospital in the initial part of the illness to detect moderate illness and other associated risk factors/diseases that require hospitalisation.

Oseltamivir is available free of cost through the public health system. They were also available with retail chemists licensed to keep Schedule X drugs, the statement said.

As the virus was circulating within the country, there was no need to impose travel restrictions or screening at inter-State points of entry and railway stations, the statement added.