With the State experiencing bouts of rainfall and the north-east monsoon looming, there is concern among public health officials that the rains may change the course of the A(H1N1) epidemic.
“Theoretically, a humid atmosphere caused by rain can be conducive for the virus to multiply manifold. This will then lead to an explosion of cases. However, we also have experts, who believe there will not be much of a difference,” says Principal Secretary, Health, V.K. Subburaj. While the State has a contingency plan for the monsoon to control the spurt of vector-borne diseases, the A(H1N1) influenza is rather new and there is no telling how it will behave.
“As such, there are not too many precautions that we can take in this case, except for promoting awareness of personal hygiene and sanitation,” he says. This information will soon be disseminated over multimedia. As a precautionary measure, public health officials have been sensitised about the possibility of increase in the number of cases.
S. Elango, Director of Public Health, says it is unlikely that there will be a drastic change in the behaviour pattern of the virus, considering that the fluctuations in temperature and humidity are not drastic.
“At any rate, being in the tropics, the mean temperature remains constant, and at best there is a variation of only a few degrees. This is not sufficient to cause any drastic changes in multiplication of the virus.”
However, he adds that exposure to the rain and cold is likely to make people more susceptible to contracting the infection.
Once someone has a throat infection or common cold, as is more likely in the rainy season, chances of catching the virus are higher.
The State has a separate contingency plan to handle any sudden spurt in infections. Private sector hospitals will also be roped in to treat A(H1N1) positive cases in order to share the burden.
Masks are unlikely to guard against infection. In fact, reports from Pune indicate that improper disposal of masks has actually fuelled the epidemic, Dr. Elango says.
It is prudent for a patient and those treating him or her to wear a mask, but for others it serves no purpose.
The total number of positive cases stood at 208 on Tuesday, of which 154 had been discharged and 64 were undergoing treatment. Some of them were started on Tamiflu even before the test results were received.
Tips to keep A(H1N1) at bay during rainy season
Always ensure that your clothes are dry and warm; change your clothes.
Do not use air-conditioner at night.
Take food that is heated and warm. Avoid ice creams and cold drinks.
Children should not be allowed to get wet in the rain or spend too much time in the open.
Forget a cold shower. A warm bath is what the doctor prescribes.