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Amid fears of rising H1N1 cases, Maharashtra issues health alert ahead of Diwali; read details here

Amid rising concerns over new “more dangerous” Covid variants emerging in China, and health warnings for a harsh infection-ridden winter in Europe, the Maharashtra government’s Public Health Department has urged citizens to exercise extreme caution ahead of and during the festival season. Also alarming in the state is the increasing number of swine flu cases.

The health department has warned people against influenza-like illnesses (ILI) and severe acute respiratory illnesses (SARI). One way to stay safe, it has said, is to avoid crowded public spaces. In case of contracting infections, people should seek immediate medical advice and start treatment.

Maharashtra reported 204 swine flu deaths and 3,585 cases till October 10. Health officials have attributed this to a reduction in immunity levels and comorbidities, especially in elderly persons. According to the data provided by the health department, there were 2,278 H1N1 (swine flu) cases in 2019, which rose to 3,585 till October 10. In 2019, 246 deaths were reported.

Of the total number of cases this year, 87.53% are from six districts – Pune tops with 1,228 cases, followed by Thane (564), Nagpur (524), Mumbai (386), Nashik (244) and Kolhapur (192).  

State Surveillance Officer Dr Pradeep Awate said all district collectors and health officers have been instructed to watch for ILI and SARI patients in their districts. He added that many patients exhibiting these symptoms are testing positive for influenza A. Last year, there were barely any cases of swine flu or influenza. Dr Awate said, “There is very little awareness about the swine flu vaccine. Currently, our priority for vaccination are healthcare professionals, patients with comorbidities and pregnant women, as 38% of those who succumbed had comorbidities. Three deaths were in the 1-10 age group.”

“Persons suffering from ILI should avoid public places and seek timely medical advice. Persons with high-risk conditions should follow Covid appropriate behaviour while attending gatherings,” said Dr Awate.

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