Swine flu affecting the young and expert suspects virus mutation

Health minister’s statement in parliament makes it clear that there is no mutation and there is no shortage of drugs

GN Bureau | February 25, 2015


#swine flu   #drug   #health   #deaths   #mutation   #virus   #nadda   #ahmed   #h1n1  

Photo: Arun Kumar

Even as India says that there is no mutation of swine flu virus, an expert has sought deeper investigation on mutation factor as more young Indians are falling prey to the disease.

Rafi Ahmed, Director of Emory Vaccine Centre in Atlanta, US, has called on the Indian researchers to immediately ascertain whether the present swine flu virus has mutated or not.

Dr Ahmed, who is also a member of the advisory committee of the Department of Biotechnology, said on Tuesday that the H1N1 virus was killing a significant number of young adults in India.

 “We saw this happening during Spanish Flu in 1918 when 50-100 million people died, and young people were a majority. There is an urgent need to sequence the Indian swine flu virus to find out whether there is a new strain or the old one. The mortality rate among the young people… is worrisome.”

Ahmed, a world-renowned scientist in viral pathogenesis, has also called for screening the samples for H3N2 and influenza type B besides H1N1 virus. He has also recommended that instead of the current monovalent vaccine which targets only H1N1, India should go for a trivalent vaccine to provide protection from H2N3 and type B as well.

However, union health minister J P Nadda made a statement in parliament on Tuesday and made it clear that the cases of Influenza A currently being reported are of H1N1 which is the same virus which took a huge toll during 2009 and there is “no mutation” in the virus.

“It has been confirmed, both by National Institute of Virology (under ICMR) and National Centre for Diseases Control, (Delhi) that the cases of Influenza A currently being reported are of H1N1.

“It is the same virus of 2009 and there is no mutation in the virus. Consequently, the drug Oseltamivir used during the time of pandemic 2009-2010 remains effective for treatment now also,” he said in the statement amid fears that the virus might have mutated.

He said in the current year, from January 1 till February 22, 2015, the number of cases reported by the states is 14673 while the number of deaths for the same period are 841.

Nadda said that his ministry has recommended vaccine only for the healthcare workers whose guidelines have been sent to the state governments.

“This decision has been taken after due consultations with experts. Vaccination of general public is not advocated as a public health strategy at this juncture,” he said.

He said that Oseltamivir cannot be sold over the counter and is made available only against prescription by a qualified doctor and sold through a chemist with license under Schedule X of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act while it also available through the public health system.

“We cannot afford a situation where due to irrational use of the drug, resistance is developed, rendering the drug incapable of fighting the virus.

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