TOP HEALTH OFFICIALS CONFIRM THAT THE SOURCE
OF SWINE FLU IS NOT ANIMALS BUT IT COULD BE MIGRANTS
In 2009, when H1N1 was first discovered in humans, experts regarded it as pandemic. Since then, the virus has been known as a regular human flu virus. It
continues to spread during flu season. Apart from Orissa, other states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Telangana also reported swine flu cases. Therefore, the health experts here are pointing out that the floating population or migrant workers could be the sources of the virus.
With the fear of swine flu (H1N1) spreading across the state, the health department has to monitor the labour camps and migrant workers to prevent the spread of the viral disease.
Significantly, top health officials confirmed that source of the influenza is not animals and it is not indigenous. Officials are of the view that initially it was reported by people who visited other states.
In 2009, when H1N1 was first discovered in humans, experts regarded it as pandemic. Since then, the virus has been known as a regular human flu virus. At present, it continues to spread during the flu season like other strains of flu.
Apart from Orissa, other states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Telangana also reported H1N1. Therefore, the health experts here are pointing out that the floating population or migrant workers could be the sources of H1N1.
“Even the use of ‘swine’ flu is outdated. Currently, we are considering it as a human flu virus. We are sure that it is not indigenous. So, the floating population or migrant workers would be the source,” said JK Tripathy, director, Public Health.
Practically, it is not possible to montior all the people who are visiting other states. Therefore, the health department can check migrant workers with the help of labour department. However, neither the health department nor the labour department conducts any regular inspection at worksites.
Unfortunately, most of these migrant workers are not having regular health checkups and are staying in unhygienic conditions in city slums and worksites. Although, Orissa POST contacted top officials of labour department including Sachin Ramchandra Jadhav, State Labour Commissioner, to know the measures taken by the department to prevent the spread of disease among workers, this correspondent failed to get a response.
According to trade union leaders, around 70 lakh workers from the state are going to other states for work. Similarly, less than five lakh workers from other states like West Bengal and Bihar are also coming to the state in search of work. Many of the trade union leaders informed Orissa POST that the labour department is not even doing regular inspection of workplaces. “The labour department is not having enough staff to inspect the worksites. It is taking too much time for taking action on many complaints. In fact, workers are not even having access to safe drinking water at many worksites,” said Sivaram, an eminent trade union leader.
According to researchers, if one person in a household gets swine flu, anywhere from 8%-19% of household contacts are likely to be infected. So, if the health department is not
monitoring worksites, H1N1 would spread in the state through migrant workers.
At present, there have been no reported cases of other subtype virus such as H1N2, H3N1, and H3N2.
“We have reported only H1N1 and it was last reported in 2009. The only way to prevent the spread of the disease is through awareness and we are taking many awareness initiatives,” added Tripathy.
A scientist working with the Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC) ruled out the possibility of mutation of the existing virus. “It is a human flu virus and is not spreading from animals. We have only H1N1 cases and the state has not reported other deadly viruses. The H1N1 will not have an immediate mutation,” said B Dwibedi, scientist, RMRC.
Therefore, the state can prevent the spread of this viral disease by focusing on migrant workers. Although, this is the ground reality, the health officials have no plans to put even some advisory messages at airports and railway stations. “Other states are also reporting H1N1. So this is not like H7N9 avian flu. Therefore, we didn’t have plans to put advisory information at airports and railway station,” said a top health official.
If the health officials and labour department continue to ignore the migrant workers in the state, there will be more swine flu cases, it was learnt.
Jose K Joseph, OP