Afshan Yasmeen

If there was any medical emergency that defined 2009, it was the outbreak of what is commonly known as swine flu.

Says Shashidhar Buggi, Director of Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases: “Influenza A(H1N1) was the biggest medical story of 2009 that kept the health machinery busy all through the year. After a lull for two months, the disease has reared its head again in the State with the death toll touching nearly 130 and nearly 2,000 people have tested positive so far.

“As the Influenza (A) virus is known to mutate, a new virus erupts every time there is a mutation. The spread of the infection depends on the virus’ nature. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is studying a mutation of the novel H1N1 virus that was recently detected in several countries. That is why there is a fear that a second outbreak might be more virulent. But the clinical severity of the mutation is yet to be analysed.”

What can be done

Dr. Buggi says: “H1N1 or any other pandemic for that matter can be effectively tackled through a coordinated approach from the Government and public. All efforts by the Government will be a waste if there is no cooperation from people. The State Health Department should take up surveillance measures all through the year. More laboratories to test the virus and research institutions to study lung diseases should be set up.

More institutions

“During the crisis, the Virology Department of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) stood up as the only testing laboratory for the virus. More such institutions should be set up and the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases (RGICD) should be developed into a National Institute of Chest Diseases to enable study of lung diseases.”