Mumbai: More than 1,250 cases of H1N1 and 98 deaths have been reported in Maharashtra from January 1 till April 14. Half the cases and deaths were reported only in the March.

The state’s health department said there has been a spurt in H1N1 cases due to the climatic changes. Swine flu, a respiratory infection, is caused by influenza viruses with symptoms such as cold, cough and fever, which generally spreads rapidly during the winter.

Dr Pradip Awate, the state surveillance officer said the number of cases has shot up. “The highest number of swine flu deaths have been reported in Nashik. The district reported 24 deaths, followed by Nagpur with 16 deaths, Ahmednagar 12 deaths and 8 deaths in Pune city,” Dr Awate said.

Experts said the fluctuating temperatures and high humidity in March could have aided spreading the virus. “Minute changes in the temperature affect the transmission dynamics of a virus. When the temperature is low, the virus remains suspended in the air particles and leads to a rise in swine flu cases,” said Abhay Chowdhary, the former director of the Parel-based Haffkine Institute.

A whopping 8,15,000 people were screened for swine flu in state with 247 patients being admitted to hospitals. Eight patients are on the ventilators. Meanwhile, over 120 H1N1 cases have been reported in Mumbai. Civic officials attribute better surveillance to the reporting of more cases. Last year, during the corresponding period, no cases were reported.

Dr Padmaja Keskar, executive health officer, urged people to avoid self-medication and visit a doctor. “No special measures have been taken by us, neither are we conducting any awareness campaign on H1N1. Regular precautionary measures are being implemented to contain the number,” added Dr Keskar.

Private practitioners in Mumbai also confirmed of treating rising H1N1 cases with three patients daily on average.  Dr Om Srivastava an infectious diseases specialist, sa­id, “I continue to see 2-3 new cases of H1N1 every week. There are more patients this year. Patients belonging to high-risk group are being put on Tamiflu immediately,” said Dr Srivastava.