Why do we see H1N1 cases every year?
Recent outbreaks of H1N1 has highlighted how ill-prepared the country was in preventing the spread of an infectious disease.
H1N1 infection causes serious mortality and morbidity, though the number of people infected and the number of people who die are significantly less as compared to dengue.
Why has H1N1 cases shot up?
The spread of the virus declines with a rise in the temperature level. But this year despite the temperature reaching to 40 degrees in some parts of the country the number of H1N1 cases and the accompanying occasional deaths have not stopped.
According to WHO, H1N1(Influenza A), H3N2 and Influenza B have been circulating in the country.
The vulnerable segment of the population:
- Pregnant mothers,
- Children aged below five and
- Young people with asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure
This segment of society is most vulnerable to infection from H1N1. Though a quantitative and qualitative data of the vulnerable population do not exist.
Lack of data makes framing a national policy on influenza difficult.
Steps that should be taken to prevent transmission of the virus:
- Individuals especially those that are part of the vulnerable section of the society should get themselves vaccinated
- We should formulate a national policy for influenza immunization
- Safe health measures should be practiced, these include correct cough etiquettes, not sharing towels with others and staying at home if infected. These will prevent transmission of the virus
- Health care workers should be vaccinated as they handle high risk patients
Can vaccination prevent infection:
- Pune based National institute of Immunology has sequenced the entire strain of the virus
- Its findings include that mutation is not responsible for increased responsibility
- The two strains of the virus are the California strain and the Michigan strain,
- WHO advisory group has recommended the composition of the vaccine. As per its recommendation the Michigan strain has replaced the California strain in the northern hemisphere
- Accordingly, India has started making the vaccine for the Michigan strain but it is yet to reach the market