Afshan Yasmeen

Our main concern is that the disease is spreading to rural areas: Usha Wasunkar

‘Surge in the number of positive cases shows the virus is present in the community now’

Bangalore: The panic over swine flu may have subsided, but it is perhaps too early to conclude that the pandemic is on the wane.

Figures released by the State health authorities show that the incidence of the influenza has not declined significantly from its peak in mid-August. The crowds at the screening centres may have reduced in the last fortnight but the number of positive cases has remained in the 15 to 22 cases per day range since then, barring a few spikes in this period.

The data clearly shows that the epidemic is still on the upswing. The average number of positive cases increased from nine per day in the first half of August to more than 20 per day in the second half of August. The total number of positive cases in the State crossed the 500 mark on September 2, a 10-fold increase since early August.

On Wednesday, 32 cases tested positive for the virus, the second highest registered in a single day since the Health Department started releasing data on a daily basis in July. The highest number recorded earlier on a single day was on August 22, when 42 persons tested positive.

Usha Wasunkar, State Director (Health and Family Welfare) said: “The latest figure counters our optimism that the disease was gradually coming under control.” She said the health authorities are unable to analyse the situation because it (situation) is still fluid. “Our main concern is that the disease is spreading to the rural areas,” she added.

Second outbreak

Pubic health experts also fear a second outbreak of the epidemic, which they expect would take a more virulent form. Ms. Wasunkar said the spread of the disease to the rural areas would require the State’s health machinery to plan for the future.

Doctors in the frontline of the combat against A(H1N1) say that the presence of the disease in the community had compounded problems.

Director of Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases (RGICD) Shashidhar Buggi said: “The surge in the number of positive cases clearly indicates that the virus is present in the community now.”

President of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA) H. Paramesh, who is also the Medical Director of Lakeside Hospital, said: “The panic has subsided because of greater awareness and the increase in the number of screening centres, but the disease is still spreading rapidly.”

“Contrary to our earlier observation that children below five years and people above 65 years are at greater risk of contracting the disease, we have found that people in the 20 to 30 age group are at high risk,” Dr. Paramesh remarked. He said: “Healthy young people are getting infected, and the infection is spreading rapidly among them, sometimes even resulting in death.”