The country is facing a severe outbreak of H1N1 influenza, also called swine flu, with a total of 22,186 positive cases claiming 1,094 lives till 20 August this year, compared to 1,786 cases and 265 deaths in 2016. This is according to statistics released by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The country had witnessed the worst outbreak of H1N1 influenza in the pandemic years of 2009-10 when the disease killed over 2,700 people and affected around 50,000 others. In 2009, H1N1 influenza was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation. 

However, this year, Delhi-NCR, with 1,719 positive H1N1 cases and five deaths, has recorded a fall in the number of cases. According to  ministry’s data, 342 people died across the country in August this year alone compared to six deaths in August 2016.

With 437 people succumbing to H1N1 virus attack this year, Maharashtra has witnessed the highest number of deaths in the country, followed by Gujarat at 269, Kerala at 73 and Rajasthan at 69 deaths. In Maharashtra, 4,245 people tested positive for H1N1 virus till 20 August, followed by Gujarat with 3,029 swine flu cases, while Tamil Nadu recorded 2,994 cases and Karnataka 2,956 cases.

Swine influenza is an infection caused by any one of the several types of swine influenza viruses. Swine influenza virus (SIV) or swine-origin influenza virus (S-OIV) is a strain of the influenza family of viruses that is endemic in pigs. Swine flu is accompanied by symptoms like fever, sore throat, headache, cough, running nose, diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting.

Vikash Raheja, professor of virology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, told The Sunday Guardian: “The virus has shown slight changes which resulted in the formation of a new strain—the Michigan. The new strain has replaced the California strain that has been widespread since 2009. The replacement of strain could be the reason for the rise in cases and mortality this year.”

“At a time when the city is witnessing rising cases of vector-borne disease, the spurt in swine flu cases has increased the burden on Delhi hospitals,” Raheja added.

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