They say people acquired immunity after 2009 pandemic

There is no need to panic over acquiring the H1N1 infection (commonly known as swine flu) in the light of the detection of a couple of cases in Chennai, according to O.C. Abraham, Head of the Department of Medicine, Unit-1 and of the Infectious Diseases Unit in the Christian Medical College, Vellore, and Hema Paul, Hospital Infection Control Officer, CMC Hospital.

Talking to reporters at the hospital here on Tuesday, Dr. Abraham said that following the outbreak of the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, people in the community had become immune to the virus and, therefore, there was no need for the public to worry about the infection any longer.

Influenza or flu is a viral infection which people get throughout the year, the common symptoms being fever and cold. H1N1 is only one form of the influenza, which has become common after 2009.

In 2009-10, the CMC reported about 5000 cases of influenza, of which 1000 tested positive for H1N1. There were 22 deaths. In 2010-11, the hospital reported 432 flu cases, of which two tested positive, whereas in 2011-12, nine cases were reported, of which two tested positive. There was one death each in 2010 and 2011.

The world population was not immune to the H1N1 virus in 2009, when a new variant of the virus attacked them, and that caused the deaths. Since most of the people got infected with the virus that year, they became immune to it subsequently.

The Infectious Diseases Unit head said that two cases of H1N1 were reported in CMC Hospital this year, one each in January and March. Both were children below 12 years. They were treated as outpatients by the Child Health Department, and recovered.

The H1N1 virus attacks the community mostly during the rainy and winter season, that is, July/August and October/November, after which the incidence declines.

Dr. Abraham said that anyone who gets flu can be treated with simple medication and bed rest. Only those who additionally have problems of the heart, kidney, lungs and liver, children below five years of age and pregnant women have to be tested for H1N1.

“We start treating such cases with Tamiflu tablets, and send their throat swab and nose swab samples for testing for H1N1. The results will be ready within 24 hours. If the patient tests positive, we continue with Tamiflu, and withdraw the medication if he or she tests negative for H1N1”.

Jacob Jose, Medical Superintendent, CMC Hospital, said that in 2009 when there was a pandemic, the Government of India designated CMC Hospital as a centre for treatment and testing for H1N1 virus. The government also supplied Tamiflu tablets free of cost to the CMC Hospital, which now has a stock of 3000 tablets.

The government also supplied vaccines for H1N1 virus free of cost after 2009. But there is no guarantee that a person once vaccinated against H1N1 virus is protected for life against the infection.

Dr. Jose said that the message for the public is that there is no need for panic about H1N1 virus.

The common symptoms for swine flu are fever, body pain, cold, running nose and sore throat. If one develops breathing difficulty, he or she should go to the hospital immediately.


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