Even as the Union Health Ministry seems to be searching for an explanation behind the sudden spurt in the incidence of the disease, official data said that the total number of cases of swine flu reported till February 12 this year has reached 6,298.
After the ministry reported 216 deaths due to swine flu in the first 10 days of February -- which had put the toll between January 1 and February 10 at 407 -- it said on Friday that the number of casualties till February 12 stands at 485.
In 2014, there were 937 reported cases of swine flu and the disease had claimed 218 lives.

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"This year, there have been 6,298 cumulative cases while there have been 485 deaths from January 1 to February 12," said Arun Panda, Additional Secretary, Health Ministry.

As per the data, Rajasthan has seen the maximum 130 deaths due to swine flu while 1,631 cases have been reported in the state till February 12. In Gujarat, in the same period, 117 people have died of swine flu with the state reporting 1,233 cases.

Fifty-six people died in Madhya Pradesh, which reported 192 cases, while there have been 51 casualties in Maharashtra out of the 352 cases which came to light there till February 12.
In Telangana, 45 people have died due to the disease while 969 cases have been reported so far. In Delhi, although the number of deaths stood at six, 1,189 cases have been reported till now in the national capital.

"The incidence (of swine flu) and deaths happen during this time of the year. It does not happen in May, June or even March. It is inversely proportional to the ambient temperature. Once the temperature shoots up, the incidence comes down,” he further said.

"There is no explanation and reason behind this spurt... The virus is the same H1N1 strain since 2009. There has been no mutation. So, it's very difficult to explain why in a particular year it has come down so drastically and, then, the very next year, it shot up again," Panda said, adding, however, that "the rise is a cause of concern".

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Giving the yearly data, Panda said that in 2009 (May to December), 27,236 cases were reported with the disease claiming 981 lives. In 2010, 20,604 swine flu cases were reported and there were 1,763 deaths while in 2011, there were 603 cases and 75 deaths.

Further, in 2012, there were 5,044 cases with 405 persons succumbing to the disease while in 2013, 5,253 cases were reported and there were 699 deaths. There were 937 cases of swine flu reported in 2014 with the death toll at 218.

Panda said that one of the reasons behind the large number of reported cases this year is that more people are coming forward and getting themselves tested for the disease.

Asked if the government has conducted a mortality analysis as to who are the people who have died till now (females, children, etc.), Panda said that his ministry would ask the states to do so.

"We will ask the states. We should also get the disaggregated data from the states where we can know the ages of the patients who have died, their gender, etc. We do not have the disaggregated data," he said.

Asked about reports that private hospitals in Delhi were charging huge fees from patients for swine flu tests, the senior official said that the government will look into the matter.

"We will look into the reports of private hospitals charging exorbitant fees for testing... We will write to Delhi government. I will also speak to the principal secretary of the health department," he said. He added that he would also take up the matter of the lack of adequate number of beds at the different state-run hospitals.
Asked if there was any proposal of providing vaccines to health workers who come in contact with swine flu patients, Panda said that the ministry was drafting guidelines based on the recommendations of experts.

"Our experts said that while vaccination is good for some strains, it might not be effective for others. They also said that if one takes a vaccine this year, it may not be effective the next year and it also gives a false sense of protection. They said that the key is for the health workers and doctors to take adequate precautions,” he added.
"We will announce the guidelines. Once the experts come up with it, we will see if the front line health workers may consider taking the vaccination. But that will come only after the guidelines are released," he said.

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