Taking swine flu vaccine is advisable: Dr AC Mishra

Thursday, 24 June 2010 - 12:32am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
With the onset of the monsoon and three swine flu deaths this month, the city is worried about a repeat of the swine flu wave last year.

With the onset of the monsoon and three swine flu deaths this month, the city is worried about a repeat of the swine flu wave
last year.

Since June 1, the city has had 63 positive cases of which eight were of pregnant women. The gradually increasing number of cases and the falling temperature has got the common man wondering if its time to put on their swine flu masks once again to avoid infections. Dr A C Mishra, director of the National Institute of Virology (NIV), one of the nodal agencies entrusted with the H1N1 virus test in Pune, spoke to DNA on the current scenario.

Is swine flu still a pandemic?
Swine flu still remains a pandemic unless the World Health Organisation (WHO) decides to call it otherwise. The WHO is holding an assessment meeting next month to discuss the global scenario of swine flu and its prevalence in all countries. Accordingly, they will decide if swine flu should continue to be termed a pandemic. Accordingly, they will also tell us if we need to change the protocol and take any extra precautionary steps.

How much has the virus changed?
Any virus mutates constantly. But, there has been no significant mutations in the H1N1 virus that would force us to change our line of treatment. Its antigenicity continues to remain the same.
This is not just the case in our country, but the world over. Last week, we had a meeting in Geneva where countries around the world said that they had not seen any significant changes in the H1N1 virus so far.

Will the newly-available vaccines be effective?
Since the virus has not shown any significant mutations, all vaccines available in the market will be effective.
Every flu virus undergoes some changes during the monsoon, but such changes if insignificant, do not require a change in the line of medication.

Would you advise people to go for a vaccine?
Taking the vaccine is advisable. The WHO also recommends the vaccine on a global scale. Also, none of the countries have recorded any major side-effects due to the vaccines. The newly-available vaccines have been under observation globally and none of the countries have reported any harmful or toxic effects. Therefore, people should come forward to take the vaccine in order to prevent more cases.

Is there a connection between swine flu deaths and co-morbid conditions (a condition that occurs along with the primary condition)?
We have not yet found any clear association between swine flu and co-morbid conditions. But, it is presumed that there is some connection. Nevertheless, more studies need to be conducted on this aspect. Also, every second person has some co-morbid condition or other, but we have not yet found anything striking. For example, we learnt that pregnant women are at high risk and such observations have been highlighted.

There is panic in the city due to the swine flu deaths after the onset of the monsoon...
Firstly, the virus has not mutated. Secondly, we have all
necessary drugs and vaccines available and the stock is plenty. Above all, we all know very well what the symptoms are and one cannot overlook these symptoms.

So, there is absolutely nothing to panic about. As far as the monsoon is concerned, the season has just started and it is too early to predict anything. There would be a slight spurt during this season, but as far as we are alert, there is nothing to worry about.

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