Swine Flu
Swine flu made global headlines in 2009 after an outbreak reached pandemic proportions.
Image for representation

Swine flu has shown first signs of return in India. Health officials in Kolkata, West Bengal have issued  an alert after a case of the disease was reported on Monday.

Swine flu made global headlines in 2009 after an outbreak reached pandemic proportions. The disease caused, according to one estimate, more than 284,000 deaths worldwide.

The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the pandemic over  in 2010. However, swine flu cases continue to occur in India. An outbreak of the disease in 2015 cause more than 2,000 deaths across states. Last year, 22,186 cases were reported with the swine flu death toll for 2017 exceeding that of 2016 by July 9th.

Officials say there is no need for alarm. However, there is need for caution.

“The situation is under control,” said Kolkata director of health services Ajay Chakrabarty. He said that a vigil was in place and preparations are being made to upscale screening efforts. People are being encouraged to take precautions such as the wearing of masks. Meanwhile, hospitals across the city are on the lookout for patients with symptoms of the virus.

Swine flu refers to an infection with any strain of influenza endemic in pigs. The symptoms are similar to those of the flu or flu-like illnesses in general. They include fever, sore throat, coughing, chills, weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

The risk of human-to-human transmission of swine flu is high in densely populated areas such as Kolkata. The city is home to 4.5 million people as per the 2011 census. This makes it a potential breeding ground for spread of the virus and thus heightens the need for vigilance by doctors and members of the public alike. This involves the upscaling of screening efforts against the disease and campaigns to raise awareness of how the disease is spread. For confirmed infections, treatment ought to begin as soon as possible.

“Cases could multiply in a matter of days,” says Debashish Saha of AMRI Hospital. “You can’t avoid every public place, so it’s necessary to be cautious.”

This article was originally published in Health Issues India. It is reprinted here with permission.