A searing hot day, with mercury climbing to 43.5 degree Celsius, might be far from a perfect day. But it might prove to be a shield
against the latest health scare to hit the world. The H1N1 swine flu virus finds it difficult to survive high temperatures.
The heat wave presently gripping northern India and the rising temperatures in other parts of the country, may be a boon against swine flu infection.
Communicable disease experts say rising temperatures make it very difficult, especially for influenza viruses, to survive.
Speaking to TOI, Dr Khanchit Limpakarnjanarat, regional advisor for communicable diseases at the World Health Organization's regional office for South-East Asia, said, "When we cough, the virus may fall on the floor. In such high temperatures, the virus can't survive in the open and perishes. A slightly cold weather is most suitable for the virus to survive in the environment and live longer."
"However, if the virus already exists inside humans, it can continue to transmit from human to human through cough and sneeze, irrespective of the weather," Dr Limpakarnjanarat added.
According to Dr Jai P Narain, director of communicable diseases at WHO SEARO, "The H1N1 swine flu virus, like any other influenza virus, is most likely to die as temperatures soar. However, very little is known about the H1N1 swine flu strain, which is a mix of avian, human and swine flu genes. Since it is a new virus, we can just hope that it is susceptible to heat."
Experts from India's National Institute of Communicable Diseases also said that "influenza viruses peak during winter and cooler climates and disappear during summer".
"The virus that exists in the droplets of your nose or moth get killed when it is released in the environment. This is our experience with seasonal flu."