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TOPIC OF THE DAY:-“Alarming spread: on H1N1 cases”

With H1N1 now a seasonal flu strain, care workers and others at risk must be vaccinated

In a short span of 55 days (till February 24) this year, the number of influenza A (H1N1) cases and deaths reported from India reached an alarming 14,803 and 448, respectively. The highest numbers were from Rajasthan (3,964), Delhi (2,738) and Gujarat (2,726). Uttar Pradesh was next, with 905. While Rajasthan and Gujarat had the highest number of deaths, at 137 and 88, respectively, Delhi recorded seven deaths despite recording around the same number of cases as Gujarat. There appears to be no let-up, with the number of cases and deaths steadily rising. What is more disturbing is that the number of cases reported till February 24 is nearly the same as that recorded in the whole of 2018 (14,992). At about 450, the number of deaths till February 24 is nearly half the total reported in 2018 (1,103). The actual number of cases and deaths this year is likely to be higher as West Bengal has not reported the data to the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme. Moreover, the IDSP data are based only on laboratory confirmed cases and deaths. The H1N1 virus, which caused a pandemic in 2009, has since become a seasonal flu strain globally, including in India, and causes fewer deaths. According to the WHO, in 2009 the number of laboratory confirmed deaths caused by the pandemic strain was at least 18,500. But a 2012 paper in Lancet Infectious Diseases mentioned 2,84,000 deaths, which was 15 times more than the number of laboratory confirmed deaths.

On February 6, the Union Health Ministry had reviewed the preparedness and action taken by States to deal with influenza cases when the number of H1N1 cases and deaths stood at 6,701 and 226, respectively. Despite the number of cases and deaths more than doubling in less than 20 days since the review, the Ministry has made no additional effort to contain the spread. It has issued a guidance “recommending” vaccines for health-care workers, and deeming them “desirable” for those above 65 years of age and children between six months and eight years. Surprisingly, people with pre-existing chronic diseases, who are most susceptible to H1N1 complications according to the WHO, have been ignored — though its own statement released on February 6 had said more deaths were seen in people with diabetes and hypertension. With H1N1 becoming a seasonal flu virus strain in India even during summer, it is advisable that health-care workers and others at risk get themselves vaccinated. Despite the sharp increase in cases and deaths, the vaccine uptake has been low. Besides vaccination, there needs to be greater awareness so that people adopt precautionary measures such as frequent handwashing, and cough etiquette.


1) despite

Meaning : contemptuous treatment or behaviour; outrage(n).

Synonyms : although

Antonyms : exalt

Example : “the despite done by him to the holy relics”

2) confirmed

Meaning : (of a person) firmly established in a particular habit, belief, or way of life and unlikely to change their ways(adj).

Synonyms : accepted

Antonyms : indefinite

Example : “a confirmed bachelor”

3) pandemic

Meaning : an outbreak of a pandemic disease(n).

Synonyms : generic

Antonyms : abnormal

Example : “the results may have been skewed by an influenza pandemic”

4) strain

Meaning : force (a part of one’s body or oneself) to make an unusually great effort.

Synonyms : anxiety

Antonyms : aid

Example : “I stopped and listened, straining my ears for any sound”

5) deeming

Meaning : regard or consider in a specified way(v).

Synonyms : assume

Antonyms : disbelieve

Example : “the event was deemed a great success”

6) susceptible

Meaning : likely or liable to be influenced or harmed by a particular thing(Adj).

Synonyms : affected

Antonyms : insensitive

Example : “patients with liver disease may be susceptible to infection”

7) granted

Meaning : admittedly; it is true (used to introduce a factor which is opposed to the main line of argument but is not regarded as so strong as to invalidate it)(adv).

Synonyms : assumed

Antonyms : unaccepted

Example : “granted, Marie was two years older than her, but it wasn’t a question of age”

8) etiquette

Meaning : the customary code of polite behaviour in society or among members of a particular profession or group(n).

Synonyms : decorum

Antonyms : immorality

Example : “the rules of etiquette are changing”