Tuesday, 4 August 2009


NEW DELHI: India on Monday reported its first death due to H1N1 flu infection, with a 14-year-old-girl from Pune succumbing to the deadly influenza India reported its first death due to H1N1 flu infection, with a 14-year-old-girl from Pune succumbing to the deadly influenza virus.
The girl, a student of class IX from St Anne’s High School first showed symptoms of H1N1 infection — sore throat, running nose and headache — on July 21.

But a critical delay in being tested for H1N1 infection and being administered Tamiflu, because she was admitted in a private hospital instead of the stipulated government isolation ward meant for both suspected and confirmed H1N1 patients, may have been the cause of her death.

Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad told TOI, “Had Tamiflu been administered in the beginning, the girl could have been saved. I advise people to go to government hospitals and get checked for H1N1 even if they have mild symptoms.’’

What’s bothering the Union health ministry is that the girl had attended school till July 23, raising serious fears that the virus may have jumped to other students and teachers in the school besides everybody she came in contact with from July 20-23.

Shockingly, Lymette Wilson, the school’s physical education teacher said the state health department had not even informed the school that a student was found to be infected with H1N1.

This is why the school hasn’t even started looking for similar H1N1 symptoms in other students till now. Wilson said, “Till yesterday, we were told it’s a lung infection.”

The state health department on the other hand is upset with the National Institute of Virology for not informing them that a positive sample was sent to them by a private hospital.

M S Devnikar, head of Pune’s joint co-ordination committee for containment of H1NI, told TOI, ‘‘Till today, we were not aware that a patient with symptoms of swine flu was admitted to a private hospital.”

The school meanwhile will be shut on Tuesday as a mark of condolence on the girl’s death. However, it will open after that.

India recorded its first H1N1 case in Hyderabad on May 16 and since then the virus has spread to almost 22 cities and towns across the country.

Explaining the series of events that led to the death of the girl, Maharashtra’s health secretary Sharvari Gokhale told TOI, ‘‘On July 21, the girl first showed symptoms. She then consulted a general practitioner and kept attending school till July 23. Two days later, she reported high fever. She was then admitted to Jehangir hospital, a private nursing home on July 27. Her condition worsened following which she was shifted to the Intensive Care Unit and was put on a ventilator on July 29.’’

“On July 31, her throat and nose swab was sent to National Institute of Virology (Pune) which confirmed that she was infected with H1N1. The same day, almost 10 days after her symptoms first appeared, she was administered the first dose of Tamilfu, which obviously was too late,” Gokhale said.

‘‘Inspite of telling people day in and day out that in case they show symptoms of H1N1, they should immediately report only to stipulated government hospitals, the instructions are not followed. We are sending a team tomorrow to trace all contact cases in the school,’’ she added.

India’s announcement of the death came soon after the first fatality due to the virus was reported from sub-Saharan Africa, the only region in the world that had not reported any deaths till Sunday night.

The death in South Africa of a healthy student due to H1N1 infection on Monday means that the virus has now killed people in all regions of the world.

The World Health Organisation declared the present outbreak as a H1N1 influenza epidemic on June 11.
The virus has till now killed more than 800 people worldwide and is expected to hit 30% of the world population in its second wave, towards the end of the year when the cool climate would be perfect for the virus to propagate.

Meanwhile the Union health ministry will soon chair a meeting to discuss the death.

Union health secretary Naresh Dayal said that Tamiflu could be made available as an over-the-counter drug in select government hospitals and chemist shops only on prescription by a physician, soon.

“NIV and NICD will evaluate what caused this death. We will do a thorough medical examination to see whether the girl had any underlying condition or was it the delay that caused the death. The pneumonia she contracted in the end became too serious and ended her life. Last three days she was so critical that she couldn’t even be moved from the private nursing home to a government hospital,” officials said.