Five new cases of Influenza A (H1N1) were confirmed in the district on Tuesday, taking the total case load this year in Thiruvananthapuram to 17.

The first H1N1 death in the State this season was reported from the district on Saturday, when a 35-year-old man from Ponmudi died at the Medical College hospital following acute respiratory distress syndrome and hepato-renal failure.

H1N1 surveillance had slackened during the initial part of the year despite warnings from public health experts about the H1N1 virus still circulating in the community.

This year, till date, 87 cases of H1N1 have been reported, a chunk of them, soon after the rains.

“The infection is following the expected course and can spike again if rains intensify. H1N1 is an air-borne infection and it is human behaviour which spreads the infection. Doctors and the public need to realise that all precautions and guidelines have to be followed strictly. Early treatment must be sought for all flu-like illnesses,” a public health expert said.

He added that all instructions given to the public during awareness classes about the general flu etiquette to be followed - covering the nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing, washing hands often or keeping away from workplaces in the event of flu - are often met with derision. But these precautions are vital to prevent the spread of H1N1. Infection control practices in health care facilities also needed to be tightened.

There was no shortage of Tamiflu tablets in any health centre in the State and already about six lakh tablets had been additionally provided by the Centre.

The drug is directly supplied by the Centre free of cost and not through the Kerala Medical Services Corporation, a health official clarified.

Doctors' strike

However, the non-cooperation by government doctors who are on an agitation, has been affecting the Health department's efforts at boosting awareness about H1N1 and its treatment, he added.