Is media spreading hysteria over Swine Flu? A fact check

As per the latest released data, Swine flu (Influenza A H1N1) death toll in India reached 1,005 while the total number of cases reached 18,105 in 2015.

Note that not all the deaths are directly due to Swine flu. Some may be due to comorbid conditions (like lung disease, liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes etc.) and compromised immunity of the patients.

The Health Ministry sought the opinion of the health experts like Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India and medicine experts from AIIMS, RML, Safdarjung hospitals, NCDC, and ICMR.

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They agree that the present strategy being followed by the Health Ministry in terms of the treatment protocol, vaccination policy, Schedule X status for Oseltamivir drug etc., is broadly in the right direction.

The full details of the Health Ministry’s strategy can be read here[pdf]:

Also, the Ministry says there is sufficient quantity of medicine (Oseltamivir) available to treat Influenza A H1N1 cases and no new medication has been advised apart from the existing one.

india-swine-flu-2009-8-13-11-10-15High temperatures are a deterrent for the virus. So, we hope the spread of the virus will be halted soon.

What about media reports that Swine flu virus in India has turned even more dangerous ?

These scare-mongering media reports are supposedly based on an MIT research findings in the March 11 issue of Cell Host & Microbe

However, a reading of the research suggests no cause for panic.

According to the report, only two Influenza sequences have been deposited during 2014–2015 from India into international viral databases

The researchers examined these two sequences and found a set of mutations, which may be a potential cause for concern.

However, the report says that due to limited Indian-origin influenza sequences available in the public database, it is not possible to make any causal inference on the perceived increased fatalities in India.

They conclude that the potential threat of the current outbreak in India cannot be determined without full genome sequence information.

In an interview to MIT News, the authors state that, “The point we’re trying to make is that there is a real need for aggressive surveillance to ensure that the anxiety and hysteria are brought down and people are able to focus on what they really need to worry about.”

Instead, Indian media is doing the opposite.

The National Institute of Virology says that the strain mentioned in the report of 2014 has no relevance to the current outbreak of 2015. Recently NIV has analyzed six full genomes, which also suggests absence of such mutations. Subsequent report on this H1N1 virus by CDC/WHO as communicated to NIV also did not report any oseltamivir resistance.

– by @narenbalaji

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