No Cause for panic about Pandemic Influenza A H1N1
The situation with respect to instances of H1N1 is well under control and is being monitored. As reported in some section of the press, the virus has not mutated to a more virulent form or changed its character. Director, National Institute of Virology, Pune has clarified that the presently circulating strain of H1N1 pandemic virus belongs 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. All are treatable with Oseltamivir (an antiviral drug which slows the spread of influenza (flu) virus). The currently available 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) differences are not significant. There is no mutation to suggest change of virus to ‘dangerous form’.
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, localized outbreaks of varying magnitude with significant level of H1N1 transmission are expected.Subsequent to this declaration, our country had experienced major outbreaks during the period August to October, 2010 and again from May, 2011 to July 2011. Now, in March-April, 2012, there is increased number of cases of Pandemic Influenza A H1N1 reported from the State of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Small pockets of population who remained unexposed to the pandemic and susceptible would be affected. In first week of March almost 30% of referred samples were positive for H1N1 in Pune which has come down to approx. 10% now.
A large number of these cases would be presenting with mild influenza like illness and as such requires no testing or anti viral drug treatment. However, it is important to get oneself examined at the nearest hospital in the initial part of illness to detect moderate illness and other associated risk factors/ diseases that require hospitalization. The anti viral drug Oseltamivir is available free of cost through the State public health system. They are also available with retail chemists licensed to keep Schedule X drugs. A central stockpile of about 8 million doses of Oseltamivir is also maintained. As the virus is circulating with in the country, there is no need to impose any travel restrictions or screening at inter-state point of entry, railway stations etc.