Why low temperatures result in the rising number of swine flu cases

India has seen a steep rise in the number of swine flu cases since December 2014. The number of deaths across the country has crossed 1700, and the number of positive cases has crossed 20,000, according to the latest reports. But this increasing number of cases saw a dip somewhere mid-February and the reason behind it was thought to be the rising temperatures. However, a sudden dip in temperatures across the country due to unexpected rains are a major cause of concern, and the dipping number of swine flu cases is again on the rise.

Swine flu cases have a pattern every year. The number of cases starts rising post-summer, during the monsoon, when the temperature starts dipping and continue rising well throughout winter. (Read: Swine flu: Ten facts you should know)

How does weather affect a virus?

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The exact mechanism behind how low temperatures affect the spread of swine flu is not clear, yet there are a few things that are responsible for its spread.

  1. During winter, the air tends to be dry which leads to dehydration of the mucous membranes. Mucous membranes are a line of defence from various respiratory infections. They trap any allergens and viruses that can cause infection. If these membranes dry out, they fail to perform their function of trapping allergens and hence, make one more susceptible to infections.
  2. People tend to stay indoors during winters, due to which they are in close contact with each other. Staying indoors increases the chances of transmission of the virus from person to person.
  3. In low temperatures, the virus tends to linger for a long time on exposed surfaces like door knobs, handles, mobile phones, etc., spreading the infection. (Read: Swine flu symptoms and signs you MUST be aware of )

It is vital to realise the importance of prevention during an epidemic. Here are some basic precautionary measures you can take to prevent the disease:

  1. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth too often as this can lead to you contracting the disease.
  3. Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitizer).
  4. Viruses also spread by droplet infection that might have deposited on common objects like phones, laptops, common desk, and chairs so avoid touching too many objects, and wash your hands, if you do. Here are IMA guidelines to tackle swine flu (H1N1 influenza) in India.
  5. Try and avoid close contact, especially with people who have the flu. Maintain a minimum distance of 6-10 feet to avoid airborne transmission.
  6. If someone at home is suffering from swine flu, clean the surfaces frequently to prevent it from spreading. Read to know if swine flu is completely curable.
  7. Wear a surgical mask if there is an outbreak of swine flu in your area.

Here are 17 of the most common swine flu questions answered.

Image source: Getty Images

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