TAMIL NADU

A(H1N1) epidemic on a downward curve, says Health Secretary

Ramya Kannan

Coimbatore, cause for worry; some deaths even after treatment

CHENNAI: The A(H1N1) epidemic is on a definite down curve in the State, Principal Secretary, Health, V.K. Subburaj, has said.

“The dip has begun and clearly, we can say that the epidemic is reaching a milestone in Tamil Nadu,” S. Elango, Director of Public Health, told The Hindu. Every epidemic has a down curve and the A(H1N1) has finally got there. The tapering off has taken place over the last month. The total number of suspected cases of A (H1N1) in Tamil Nadu was 18,564 as of October 31. The number of positive cases was 1814.

There have been eight deaths in the State directly attributed to A(H1N1) and though there have been insinuations of other deaths that were not reported, Dr. Elango said all those claims were verified and found to be false. The number of cases had certainly dropped since the first case was recorded in June and subsequently rose over the months, peaking at 716 cases in September. In October it dropped to 404.

The deaths occurred in some cases even after the treatment was completed, indicating that drug resistance was a bigger problem than was being recorded formally, Dr. Elango said. Also, public health officials had gathered ample evidence to prove that there was a carrier stage in the epidemic during which people harbouring the virus might not necessarily be ill.

He indicated that the State was interested in examining the validity of chloroquinine (used in the treatment of malaria) in treating this influenza.

While Chennai initially led the epidemic, the surrounding districts caught up over the months. The capital city continues to be the top, with 781 out of the total cases coming from here. As many as 250 cases are from neighbouring Kancheepuram and 98 from the northern neighbour Tiruvallur. The largest percentage of cases (35) affected the 6-14 age group, followed by the 21-40 age group, 29 per cent.

Mr. Subburaj said that the number of cases in Coimbatore, however, seemed to have gone up, comparatively. “Even if we are on a down curve, it does not mean we can slacken. The vigil is up. Laboratories will continue to test and in Coimbatore, specially, we have taken up screening in schools as a preventive measure.”

Monitoring

Airports and seaports were being monitored by health officials in order to detect infections. Twenty-two airports across the nation continued to be under the scanner and the total passengers screened till date was 78,92,245.

Till date, samples from 73,149 persons have been tested for Influenza A(H1N1) in government laboratories and a few private laboratories across the country and 13,861 (18.9 per cent) of them found to be positive, according to data from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The Ministry’s update also mentions an increasing number of “indigenous” cases as opposed to the beginning of the epidemic when travellers from abroad brought the flu into the country.

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