|Sudden spike in swine flu
By Carol Aloysius
Novel A/HINI cases ( earlier known as swine flu) in
Sri Lanka are on the rise, and number of those
affected could exceed the previous year’s record
number, Health Ministry sources warned.
“As this is a new virus, people are still not immune
to it and are thus likely to be affected to a larger
degree,” Dr Sugath Peiris, Chief Epidemiologist,
told The Nation yesterday.
Since the first two local cases of A1HINI made their
appearance in late September this year as the second
wave of pandemic influenza began sweeping across the
globe, the numbers of reported cases in Sri Lanka
appear to have mounted in an erratic manner
according to the latest figures revealed by the
The November 27 statistics from the epidemiology
unit of the Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition,
reveal that the first reported cases of A1HINI under
the Second Wave of Pandemic Influenza in Sri Lanka
this year, numbered only two. These were reported
between September 20- 26.
However from October 11 onwards, AHINI suddenly
re-emerged with an explosion, when five cases
reported between October 11-17, followed by 10 cases
between October 18-24 and the numbers soared to 19
between October 25-31.
These numbers then took a plunge when they dipped
to nine in the first week of November.
From then on, there has been a steady climb in the
disease trend, peaking at 35 between the period
November 8-14 , and dropping slightly to 32 in the
following week ( November 15-21).
Only four cases being reported from November 22-27.
The total number of confirmed cases as of November
26 is 133, with 33 children between 1-10 being
afflicted with the virus.
Those between 11-20 were the next highest group(
26), followed by the age group 31-40 years( 16) and
those aged 41-50 years (10).
The least affected were over 50 years, with 1-2
confirmed cases, while none were reported from the
over 70 year age group.
“As there are more young people in our population it
is natural they should comprise the biggest affected
group,” Dr Peiris explained.
More women (63) were afflicted by the disease
than men ( 54) the ratio being 54%: 46%.
District-wise the highest number of cases reported
were from the Western Province- Colombo( 66) and
Gampaha 13. Nuwara Eliya had 7, while Puttlam and
Kandy 5 each, Matara 4, and other districts 1-2
“All these cases are local transmissions,” Dr Peiris
Although the numbers are relatively low at present
the Health Ministry has already taken necessary
steps to stock up adequate medicines and vaccines
for an emergency situation, should the numbers of
seriously ill persons rise significantly.
Asked if any special arrangements were being made
to send any infected patients to the Infectious
Diseases Hospital (IDH), or set up separate wards
for them, Dr Peiris replied in the negative.
He also advised the public not to panic and waste
their money on unnecessary tests. “Earlier when the
disease broke out here as well as around the globe,
people panicked. But now we have realized that it is
not as dangerous a disease as we thought it was. It
is like a normal flu with symptoms very similar to
flu, such as fever, cough and colds. Only a lab test
will confirm if the patient is actually having the
disease,” Dr Peiris said.
“The only reason to worry is if there is fever
for over three days accompanied by severe lower
respiratory tract problems such as being short of
breath and difficulty in breathing. That means their
lungs are affected and they can get pneumonia, and
it is important they should be seen by a doctor
immediately,” he added..
Novel AHINI peaked in 2009 with over 640 cases being
reported and nearly 50 deaths recorded up to
February this year.
AHINI is a flu like illness which spreads from
human to human through secretions of nose and
droplets from coughing.
The virus enters the body through the respiratory
system and multiplies and attacks the respiratory
Symptoms are similar to flu – fever, headaches, body
aches, sore throat, colds, headaches, and
occasionally vomiting. Since it is similar to flu it
is difficult to differentiate it from the ordinary
flu, health sources said.
The public has been advised to stay at home if they
have fever for over 2-3 days, take plenty of bed
rest, drink lots of fluids, and eat good nourishing
They should cover their faces with a clean cloth or
tissue when sneezing or coughing, avoid travelling
or mingling where there are crowds, and wash one’s