The H1N1 influenza virus which entered the list of infectious diseases with a global pandemic in 2009, has overtaken dengue and malaria to become the biggest killer among seasonal ailments in Maharashtra.
Since its appearance, the viral infection has claimed nearly 2,500 lives in the state, about five times the fatalities caused by dengue and three times that of malaria in the same period. The viral infection is now next only to tuberculosis and AIDS in the state’s list of top contagious killer diseases. TB and AIDS together are responsible for more than 10,000 deaths in the state annually.
While annual death toll of dengue and malaria have reduced to double digits over the years, H1N1, initially called swine flu, has managed to spring a surprise almost every alternate year, killing hundreds. In the first half of 2017 alone, 247 people died of the airborne disease in Maharashtra, including 10 in Mumbai. Three deaths occurred in the last week, two of the victims being a pregnant woman and another a TB patient.
Dr A C Dhariwal, director of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), said HINI “has indeed changed the way we used to tackle viral fever in the country. Apart from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Kerala are also badly affected”.
In January-June this year, H1N1 claimed more lives in Maharashtra than malaria which has caused one fatality and dengue two.
The resurgence comes after a lull in 2016 when far fewer deaths (26) were reported. In 2015, the state had witnessed its worst outbreak with 905 deaths.