H1N1 is in the air, but don’t panic

H1N1 is in the air, but don’t panic

H1N1 or swine flu is spreading. Over the past month, it has claimed six lives in Karnataka. About 500 patients have tested positive, and are being treated.

Doctors’ advice: Keep an eye out for signs and symptoms of the flu, and take precautions.

People travelling in buses and the Metro are at a higher risk of catching the virus because of the huge number of commuters they are exposed to.

The city was first hit by H1N1 in 2009, and the second wave came in 2015. Those years saw a high number of swine flu cases, says Dr Shivakumar, project coordinator, communicable diseases, BBMP.  

However, the situation is not very grim currently, he says.

“H1N1 started this year in the second week of September and is now spreading in the Mahadevapura (Whitefield) area. In other zones, it is scattered, with 10 to 12 cases,” Dr Shivakumar told Metrolife.   

H1N1 is an airborne infection and spreads from contact with droplets of sneeze or cough of an infected person.

“If infected people take no self-quarantine measures, it is difficult for any government agency to control swine flu. The first thing to do right is to spread awareness that it spreads through sneezing and coughing,” he says.

Dr Shalini Joshi, senior consultant, internal medicine, Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road, warns against self-medication.

“Patients with confirmed H1N1 should be isolated in a room and they should avoid going out. Pregnant women, children and the elderly are at high risk, so they should definitely stay away from infected persons,” she says.
The symptoms of seasonal flu and H1N1 are typically the same so, there might be chances that people may not recognise swine flu.

Sachin Shetty, joint director of communicable diseases, says, “H1N1 is seasonal influenza and this year, there are mainly cases of Influenza B, this apart there are also cases of H1N1 and H3N2 (virus subtype) in Karnataka. We have cases reported from all over Karnataka except Chikkaballapur.”

 Are flu shots mandatory?

“Vaccination is not mandatory as the efficacy is only 60 to 70 per cent. This is because the strain changes every year due to mutation. Vaccination is recommended only to patients and healthcare workers treating H1N1 patients. As of now, there is no need for mass vaccination,” says Dr Shivakumar.  

Antibiotics help?

No, say doctors, as swine flu is caused by a virus and not bacteria. Consult a doctor for medication.

High fever?

Visit the doctor if you have high fever for more than 24 hours.

Cough right, use elbow

People generally place their palms against the mouth when they cough. This practice is wrong as we tend to use the same hand to eat, touch handlebars and door knobs and shake hands. The ideal way is to sneeze or cough on your elbow or use a handkerchief, says Dr Shalini Joshi, senior consultant, internal medicine

As of October 15 this year, Karnataka has 524 confirmed cases of H1N1 and six deaths.
— Sachin Shetty, Joint director, communicable diseases, BBMP

Some things you could do to protect yourself

Follow the ‘hands-off-the-face’ rule.

Avoid touching your face, nose or mouth until you wash your hands.

Carry and use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

Wear an N95 mask when you are in crowded places.

Frequently wash hands with soap and water.

Avoid crowded places like malls.

Drink fluids such as soup.

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