Jaipur: With number of cases almost doubling in the last month, Rajasthan is witnessing a surge in swine flu patients across the state. This year, 104 people have died since January in the western arid state. Doctors attribute the cases to a new strain in the H1N1 virus called the Michigan strain.
"We saw some changes in the virus and sent it to the National Institute Of Virology in Pune. In the earlier cases, it was found to be Californian strain. The good news is this virus appears to be less virulent," said Dr Rashmi Sinha, senior microbiologist at Jaipur's Sawai Man Singh hospital (SMS Hospital).
This year, the state has registered 1,420 swine flu cases. In August alone, the number of cases has doubled in comparison to those in April. Doctors expect it to go even higher in the coming months. People are more prone to the virus in October and November, doctors said.
Leaves of all government hospital doctors have been cancelled for a month and isolation wards have been set up in hospitals in the state.
Less Dangerous, But Equally Contagious
Though the virus may be less dangerous, it is certainly more contagious. Doctors say, because the virus has undergone a change, it is likely to infect more people who have not developed immunity to it yet.
In the swine flu ward of SMS hospital in the state's capital of Jaipur, an entire family got infected with the virus. Savita, from the neighbouring district of Jhunjhunu, has been suffering from swine flu for the past five days. Her husband and two young children got infected in rapid succession.
Later, her sister Chungee Meena a constable with Border Security Force - who came to nurse the family through the illness also got down with the virus.
Doctors have recommended a fresh round of vaccinations for the new strain especially for health workers.
"The three departments who are exposed to this virus here , all faculty members , residents , nursing staff , lab technicians they are all being vaccinated with the new vaccine which covers the new strain," said Dr Ajit Shekhawat, superintendent of SMS hospital.
Last year when the new strain in the virus had not been detected, there were 43 deaths due to swine flu and 197 positive cases were diagnosed across Rajasthan.
Many cases of swine flu have been detected in Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Gujarat as well.