The alarming rise in the number of swine flu deaths in India -- with 100 more casualties reported across the country in three days since February 12, taking the total number to 585 this year -- has put the spotlight on the urgent need to check the spread of the H1N1 virus. According to latest official data, a total of 8,423 people have contracted the flu this year, with Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra being the worst-affected states with their respective tolls standing at 165, 144, 76 and 58.
On February 15 alone, Rajasthan reported 12 deaths, while there were eight fresh casualties each in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. Though Delhi and Tamil Nadu reported a high incidence of cases, the death toll in the two states is relatively low due to more awareness and a better developed health sector.
In view of the numbers threatening to spiral in the coming days, here's a primer on the dos and don'ts to fight the virus.
Influenza A(H1N1)2009 virus -- popularly called swine flu -- shot to notoriety in April 2009, after it was identified as a "novel" (new) virus that had caused a flu outbreak in La Gloria, Mexico, in March 2009.
Should you panic yet?
No. In October 2011, WHO declared H1N1 a seasonal virus, which makes it no more contagious or deadly than other flu viruses. The virus has not mutated, and is the same as the one causing infection in 2014, when only 937 tested positive for it.
How can you stay safe?
The flu spreads through droplets expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezes or by touching contaminated surfaces. You can protect yourself by staying away from infected persons, frequently washing hands with soap, and cleaning surfaces with disinfectant or warm water regularly.
When should you get tested/visit a doctor?
You should tested for H1N1 if, along with flu symptoms (fever, runny nose, sore throat and congestion), you have:
* Fever over 101 degrees for more than three days
* Extreme breathlessness
* Pain in the chest while breathing
Who are at risk?
People with existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, etc and people with compromised immunity because of cancer, kidney disease, uncontrolled diabetes, kidney disease need immediate medical attention. Also at risk are pregnant women, or children under 5 years or more than 50 years old and people hospitalised with H1N1 infection that is depleting oxygen saturation levels in the blood.