(AA) – At least 215 people have been killed by an outbreak of swine flu in India this year, according to statistics revealed by several states.
On Thursday at least nine people were killed in western state Gujarat, where there have now been 62 deaths, while the toll is currently highest in the northern state or Rajastan, where at least 68 people have died.
There have also been high death tolls in the states of Telangana and Maharastra as the virus spreads across the country, with more than 5,000 people having tested positive according to health departments.
“At any given time 5 to 10 percent of the population suffers from the H1N1 virus, swine flu. With the change of season, infections rise,” said Dr. AK Prasad, President of the Indian Virological Society.
“The deaths happen mostly in cases of young children, the elderly and those with chronic respiratory diseases,” he added.
The Central government has said that it is closely monitoring the situation in the states and has assured them of all assistance like medicines, testing kits and personal protective equipment. Medical teams have been sent to Telangana, Rajasthan and Gujarat to assess the situation and help manage the cases.
The Central Health Secretary, B.P. Sharma also spoke through video conferencing with senior health officials from the states most affected and shared the instructions on treatment protocol, awareness and training.
“The virus has not mutated, and this strain is the same since the swine flu first hit India in 2009. With better awareness and diagnostics, things will improve,” added Dr. Prasad.
There have already been almost as many deaths as a result of swine flu in 2015 as there were in the whole of the last year, when 2014 people died.
Local daily Indian Express quoted a senior health official saying that a cause for many of the deaths may have been limited health access, as there have been few deaths in cities, even where there have been high numbers of patients.
The ex-Chief Minister of Rajasthan Ashok Gehlot was one of those infected. “I tested positive for swine, but I got medical attention on time, now my condition has improved,” tweeted Gehlot.