H1N1 (swine flu) refuses to die down in Kerala & Karnataka; 16 dead in 2 months

Southern states of Kerala and Karnataka are finding it difficult to get rid of the H1N1 virus, with 16 new deaths reported from the two states in June and July.

According to central government figures, Kerala reported 174 cases of confirmed H1N1 infections in the two months, while Karnataka reported 34 infections. None of the other states reported such outbreaks during the period.

The fatality rate was higher in Karnataka, with 6 deaths out of the 34 cases or roughly one six (18%), much higher than the death-rate during the height of the pandemic in 2009. At that time, the death rate was just 5.7%.

Kerala reported 8 deaths among 174 infections during the two months, a fatality rate of 4.6%. This too was mildly above the long term fatality rate of 3.9% in the state. The national long-term average is 5.9%.

The risk of death due to H1N1 increases during ‘off peak’ times as people are not on their guard against the pandemic and tend to mistake the infection for ordinary flu. The symptoms of H1N1 are very similar to a normal cold and many people never realize that they have had it.

It is particularly fatal to people with weak immune systems, such as pregnant women, TB patients, malnourished people etc..

With these, the death toll from the H1N1 in Kerala has risen to 129 and to 255 in Karnataka and to 2,772 nationally.

Total confirmed infections have risen to 46,777 by the end of July (see chart.)

The H1N1 virus spread to India from foreign countries and particularly affected the regions that send a large number of migrant workers abroad, such as Kerala.

Altogether, the prevalence of the virus was much higher among the Western states of India, which tend to be more connected to the rest of the World, than the interior or the East.

Leading the toll was Maharashtra with 34% of all deaths in India, not least because of Mumbai, followed by Gujarat, with roughly half the number of deaths.

They were followed by their northern neighbour Rajasthan and southern neighbour Karnataka.