Flu outbreak in India: with symptoms like nagging and persistent cough, India is currently engulfed in a wave of flu. People across the country are suffering from a long cough that lasts for days and sometimes weeks.
According to doctors, the current flu is because of influenza A (H3N2). The doctors told Financial Express.com that there has been a significant rise in influenza infections. Currently, every other person across the country is down with fever, cough, loss of voice, and breathlessness.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the surge in flu cases in the country the spike in flu cases in the country is similar to the surge in the West between September and January.
“Doctors at Primus Hospitals in New Delhi are seeing an increase in instances of seasonal diseases, including viral infections like H3N2 influenza and other seasonal infections, as a result of the rapid shift in weather from cold to warmer temperatures. It is no secret that weather has a significant influence on overall health. Throughout the winter, as the number of cardiovascular illnesses grows, the number of viral infections climbs as well. When winter fades and summer arrives earlier, the number of patients reporting viral fever, cold and cough, and severe throat infections is fast growing,” Prof Dr. SK Chhabra, Head of Department -Pulmonary, Sleep and Critical Care Medicine, Primus Hospital, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi told Financial Express.com.
A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) last month revealed that the surge was caused by low immunity among people and a decline in flu vaccination.
“Influenza virus infections declined globally during the Covid-19 pandemic. Loss of natural immunity from lower rates of influenza infection and documented antigenic changes in circulating viruses may have resulted in increased susceptibility to influenza virus infection during the 2021-2022 influenza season,” the report stated.
The influenza A(H1N1)pdm09, A(H3N2), and influenza B viruses occurred in a number of nations, as per WHO.
In India, influenza vaccines or flu shots are supposed to be taken every year never gained popularity.
According to WHO, there are four types of seasonal influenza viruses, types A, B, C, and D. Influenza A and B viruses cause seasonal epidemics of disease. The Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) maintains that influenza cases in India usually peak during monsoon season, June to September with secondary peaks during winter.
According to ICMR figures, H3N2, a sub-type of the influenza virus, is in wide circulation for the last two-three months—slightly more than the swine flu virus.
“There are a lot of patients coming with post-flu prolonged cough. Majority of patients are getting infected with flu causing virus like influenza, RSV, adenovirus, rhinovirus etc. Post viral cough is a well known entity. A secondary bacterial throat infection usually occurs after getting flu which needs more care and treatment. The probable reasons for prolonged cough are air pollution hampering respiratory immunity, new mutant pathogens which need research, post nasal drip, allergic airway, reflux diseases (acidity), irrational use of antibiotics etc.,” Dr Akshay Budhraja, Senior Consultant, Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, Aakash Healthcare told Financial Express.com.
In the last one month of 31 January, more than 451 cases and nine deaths have been reported, as per media reports.
“The current flu is caused by Influenza A from H3N2 strain. The patient suffers with high grade fever for 4 to 5 days along with sore throat for 7 to 10 days. This is often followed by productive cough producing sputum which last for 2-3 weeks. In these cases the patient has to be given either inhalation or oral steroids to recover. It is a threat to elderly patients with co-morbid heart conditions if they suffer from this virus and could lead to heart failure,” Dr Samrat Shah, Consultant Internist at Bhatia Hospital Mumbai told Financial Express.com.
What are the Symptoms?
According to doctors, flu signs and symptoms usually come on suddenly. People who are affected with flu experience the following symptoms:
- Uncontrollable cough
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- and fatigue among others.
Which Age Group Is Most At Risk?
According to doctors, school-going children are at the most risk as they have resumed going to school. Those above 60 years with co-morbidities like COPD, diabetes, asthma and heart disease are also very vulnerable.
“The increase in the number of patients complaining of viral infections and chest congestion demonstrates how seasonal change is having a negative influence on people’s health. Pollution is also playing a significant influence in increasing the number of patients affected by viral diseases. The elderly, children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable to infection. As a result, they must exercise extreme caution while walking outside. Apart from asthmatic patients, there are many additional individuals who have serious lung infections and are having difficulties breathing,” Prof. Dr. Chhabra told Financial Express.com.
Dr. Chhabra also maintained that patients are experiencing similar issues as a result of climate change.
“Individuals with chronic illnesses, such as asthma, must exercise special caution during such weather shifts since they might provoke severe respiratory difficulties and asthma episodes. At this period, even small respiratory problems must be reported to a pulmonologist or a physician to avoid the condition from worsening,” he added.
According to WHO, the majority of cases of human influenza are clinically diagnosed.
“Laboratory confirmation of influenza virus from throat, nasal and nasopharyngeal secretions or tracheal aspirate or washings is commonly performed using direct antigen detection, virus isolation, or detection of influenza-specific RNA by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR),” the global health
WHO has outlined the following guidelines for influenza infection:
Patients that are not from a high risk group should be managed with symptomatic treatment and are advised, if symptomatic, to stay home in order to minimize the risk of infecting others in the community.
Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms of influenza such as fever.
Patients should monitor themselves to detect if their condition deteriorates and seek medical attention Patients that are known to be in a group at high risk for developing severe or complicated illness, should be treated with antivirals in addition to symptomatic treatment as soon as possible.
Patients with severe or progressive clinical illness associated with suspected or confirmed influenza virus infection should be treated with antiviral drug as soon as possible.
Treatment is recommended for a minimum of 5 days, but can be extended until there is satisfactory clinical improvement.
How To Prevent Influenza Infection?
According to Dr. Budhraja, the best way to avoid getting flu is by avoiding crowded places, practice good hand and respiratory hygeine, annual flu shot, keeping indoor air quality under control, wearing a pollution mask when outdoors and avoiding home remedies without consultation.
- The most effective way to prevent the disease is vaccination. Injected inactivated influenza vaccines are most commonly used throughout the world.
- Among healthy adults, influenza vaccine provides protection, even when circulating viruses do not exactly match the vaccine viruses.
- Regular hand washing with proper drying of the hands
- Good respiratory hygiene – covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, using tissues and disposing of them correctly
- Early self-isolation of those feeling unwell, feverish and having other symptoms of influenza
- Avoiding close contact with sick people
- Avoiding touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth
WHO recommends annual vaccination for:
- pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
- children aged between 6 months to 5 years
- elderly individuals (aged more than 65 years)
- individuals with chronic medical conditions
- health-care workers.