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Dr Mukesh Batra

Influenza: There is no need to panic yet, says expert

The rising number of respiratory illness cases in the country concerns healthcare professionals, who say it is a seasonal phenomenon and advise people not to panic and follow proper guidelines issued by health authorities, as well as to take adequate preventive measures.

Speaking to Drug Today Medical Times, Padma Shri recipient and founder of Dr Batra's group of companies, Dr Mukesh Batra, said that the current influenza outbreak in the country is primarily driven by the H3N2 virus, also known as the "Hong Kong flu" in India, has been detected in over 1100 since  January 1, 2023.

“A chest infection, fever, shivers, breathlessness and wheezing, nausea, sore throat, body ache, and diarrhoea are among the symptoms,” Dr Batra stated while discussing the current influenza outbreak.

Pointing out that people with weak immunity are more prone to get infected by the influenza virus, He added, “My advice to people is to stay calm and take precautionary measures.”

“These symptoms are somewhat similar to COVID, and I would advise people to please maintain strict hygiene standards to restrict contamination and follow the guidelines, including Getting tested and treated by a healthcare provider and refraining from panicking,” he added further.

Stressing that prevention is better than cure, Dr Batra advised people to avoid crowded places and clean their hands frequently using alcohol-based hand sanitisers or soap and water.

“When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue, and throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Union Government said that it is monitoring the emerging situation and has taken several steps to support states in managing influenza cases, including H3N2.

In response to a question in the Lok Sabha recently, Dr Bharati Pravin Pawar, Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, stated that the ministry has issued an advisory requesting all states and UTs to take necessary steps, including closely monitoring the trend of influenza-like illness or severe acute respiratory infections (ILI/SARI) in respective areas, while monitoring the proportion of SARI cases among all ILI& SARI cases, and referring a sufficient number of sample cases.

The minister further stated that the state governments have been asked to raise community awareness regarding adherence to respiratory and hand hygiene (like covering one’s mouth and nose with a tissue/elbow when coughing or sneezing, avoiding spitting in public places, preferably use of mask in crowded environments, frequent hand wash etc.), promoting early reporting of symptoms, and limiting contact if suffering from respiratory illness.

Pointing out that the ICMR-led ILI/SARI surveillance revealed that 50% of the total hospital admitted cases due to respiratory infection are due to H3N2 Influenza in the last two months, where most of these cases presented with symptoms of cough and fever, Dr Pawar informed the members that the Centre has asked the states to take stock of hospital preparedness including drugs, medical equipment, capacity building of human resource on existing guidelines as well as vaccination coverage against COVID19 and influenza. 

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