222 and counting: Telangana struggles with fresh inflow of swine flu cases every day

Even as winter recedes, the state continues to see people testing positive for the H1N1 virus.
222 and counting: Telangana struggles with fresh inflow of swine flu cases every day
222 and counting: Telangana struggles with fresh inflow of swine flu cases every day
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In the third floor of the Emergency Block in Hyderabad's state-run Gandhi hospital, there is a hushed silence.

A large grill gate stands ajar, with several people gathered beyond the gate at the end of a corridor, speaking amongst themselves. Most of them have their faces covered.

Beside the small crowd, is room number 316. A printed poster that reads 'SWINE FLU WARD' has been stuck outside the room.

"Please don't enter the room unless your face is covered. There are positive cases in the room," one of the nurses warns.

Outside, 52-year-old Mohammed sits worriedly. His elder sister, 65-year-old Bathol Sultana, is one of those who have been tested positive with the H1N1 virus.

"We brought her here after she started suffering from high fever, cough, and body aches. She also said she felt very weak," he says.

"However, doctors have said that there is nothing to worry about, as we brought her in time. We are hoping for the best," he adds. 

This is the scene at the swine flu ward in Telangana's nodal centre for treatment of the disease. Children are treated in a separate ward in the hospital's main block.

While most beds are empty, and only a few are occupied, the cases of swine flu have only been going up in the state.

On Tuesday, a two-year-old girl at the hospital succumbed to the deadly virus after being on the ventilator for four days, even as the number of positive cases went up to 130. 

According to reports, the Institute of Preventive Medicine (IPM) has detected as many as 130 positive cases since January 1. Eight of those cases were detected on Tuesday.

Over 3,000 samples have been tested since August 1 last year and 222 of them have tested positive. Following this, 12 have been confirmed dead by the state, with six passing away in January alone.

The family of the two-year-old, who was the latest victim of the virus, lives in Rasoolopura in Secunderabad, a highly congested area, which would make it an ideal breeding ground for swine flu.

Reports stated that a team from the health department immediately visited the locality, even as District Medical and Health Officers (DMHO) in the state were directed to focus on all suspect cases.

Swine flu is an infection caused by one of several Swine Influenza Viruses (SIV), with the H1N1 strain being the most common in India and Telangana. 

The H1N1 virus spreads when you touch an infected surface or breathe droplets of coughs and sneezes that are in the air. 

The symptoms are the same as the seasonal flu, also known as viral fever. They include cough, sore throat, and body aches. Young children, pregnant women, and older adults are more likely to develop complications.

The virus is no stranger to the state as it is an annual event, that stays in the spotlight for a short period every year, before fading away until the next season.

In January 2015, over 220 swine flu positive cases were reported along with ten deaths in just 20 days.

The situation was so bad that Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao sacked his state Health Minister T Rajaiah, for the shoddy way in which swine flu was tackled.

The 2016 season wasn't any better, with the IPM reporting double digit positive cases every day in October 2015. The state did handle it better, by stepping up the available healthcare facilities, and roping in several extra doctors to handle the crisis.

However, this season is slightly different.

Just last week, Health minister Laxma Reddy announced that Telangana's deputy chief minister Mahmood Ali had tested positive for swine flu. 

"The disease is not very severe. Mr Ali has been asked to take lots of fluid and a balanced diet," Reddy told a media gathering.

"Usually, as it gets hotter, the cases also drop. The main crisis happens at the end of the year, and starts slowing down by the end of January. This year, the cases are still coming in strong," says one of the nurses at the swine flu ward in Gandhi Hospital.

Dr JV Reddy, Superintendent of Gandhi hospital attributes this to the cold wave that recently hit Hyderabad and the state, with temperatures in the first week of January falling to single digits.

"Usually, we get more cases during the winter and when it is cloudy. Since the winter was slightly more severe this year, we are expecting cases till February end, following which we might see a sharp dip, before it fizzles out," he says.

For now, the state has also assured its citizens that it is prepared to handle every outcome. It has asked people to visit a doctor or hospital, even if they're showing mild symptoms of the disease, to ensure early detection.

"We are fully equipped to tackle the situation. We have everything we need. We are even conducting several awareness programs at the village and district level to educate people on the virus and its symptoms," Reddy adds.

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