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Written by Dr Swati Rajagopal

Source: BangaloreMirror

Experts say number of cases may be higher this year as it is likely to be a cold winter

Though dengue season is coming to an end, health experts can’t afford to take it easy as winter is likely to be colder this year and so they expect a large number of H1N1 cases. Doctors are asking people to use sanitisers and avoid places where there is a chance of contracting the infection.

Children younger than five years or senior citizens are the most affected by the disease. The symptoms include cough, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, sore throat, watery red eyes, headache, chills, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue and body aches. Sometimes, people may suffer from fever too, says Dr. Swati Rajagopal, consultant - Infectious Disease and Travel Medicine, Aster CMI Hospital. The influenza virus may survive better in colder, drier climates, and therefore be able to infect more people. Days are shorter during the winter, and lack of sunlight leads to low levels of vitamin D and melatonin , both of which require sunlight for their generation. This compromises our immune systems, which in turn decreases ability to fight the virus,” she says.

Dr Raghu J, Senior Consultant - Internal Medicine, Sakra World Hospital advises that one must take seasonal flu vaccines or shots. “We have seen 4-5 cases of flu in the last two weeks caused by a combination of H1N1 and Influenza A and B viruses. Even though the virus originates from mammals, it continues to spread during flu season like other strains of the flu from person to person, either by inhaling the virus or by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus,” he says. He adds, “Consult a doctor immediately if you are experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, severe vomiting, pain in your belly or sides, dizziness, or confusion.”
However, a few experts say there could be a drop in the number of cases due to delayed monsoons. Dr L Narendra Prasad , consultant - Internal Medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital Hebbal, says that every year, he sees around 5 to 10 per cent of H1N1 cases, i.e, 3 to 5 patients a day, during November, December and January. “But this year, we may expect fewer cases of H1N1 due to the extended monsoons. The monsoon is still continuing though it is November, so there may be variations in H1N1. But we are witnessing a lot of viral, swine flu cases. It’s always advisable especially for the elderly and people with co-morbid conditions to take vaccinations to prevent H1N1,” he says.

To-do list

  •  It is advisable not to go outside for at least 24 hours until the fever is gone
  • Keep your hands clean and wash as often as possible. Make use of soap, water, alcohol-based hand sanitisers
  • Cover your mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing. Do not use the palm of your hand to cover your sneeze however, as it could easily transfer to someone else through your hand. Use a face-mask, or sneeze into a tissue/handkerchief
  • Avoid high risk places that are crowded, especially if you fall within the high risk category— for example, you’re younger than 5 or older than 65 years, you’re expecting, or if you have a chronic medical condition
  •  Vaccination is offered to high-risk groups to reduce complications of flu
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