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Centre sounds alert as H3N2 influenza cases surge

The Health Ministry on Saturday warned that an increasing trend of Influenza-like Illnesses, and Severe Acute Respiratory Illnesses is being observed across the country. Read More

Saturday March 11, 2023 10:00 PM, IANS

Centre sounds alert as H3N2 influenza cases surge

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New Delhi: The Health Ministry on Saturday warned that an increasing trend of Influenza-like Illnesses, and Severe Acute Respiratory Illnesses is being observed across the country.

"Under the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP), as reported by the states and union territories, an increasing trend of ILI/SARI is being observed across the country. Further, as per integrated sentinel based surveillance of ILI and SARI, an upswing of Influenza A is observed since the latter half of December 2022," Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in the letter.


"Of particular concern is the preponderance of Influenza A (H3N2) being detected in the samples being analysed in various labs," said Bhushan, adding that young children, old-age people and people suffering from co-morbidites are particularly at risk and vulnerable to HIN1, H3N2, Adenoviruses, etc.

"While the Covid-19 trajectory has decreased substantially in the last few months, the gradual rise in Covid-19 test positivity rates in some states is a concerning issue that needs to be promptly addressed."

"Despite a low number of new cases, an equally low number of hospitalisations and significant advances made in terms of Covid-19 vaccination coverage, there is still a need to remain vigilant and focus on the fivefold strategy of test-track-treat- vaccination and adherence to Covid appropriate behaviour," the letter reads.

Bhushan further said that while most of these agents typically cause a similar mild and often self-limiting illness, manifesting acute respiratory infection with fever and cough, in some cases, particularly old age people, people with obesity and other co-morbidities, as well as pregnant females may suffer from a more severe manifestation of these diseases requiring hospitalisation.

The Health Ministry has asked to raise community awareness regarding adherence to respiratory and hand hygiene, promoting early reporting of symptoms, and limiting contact of those people who are suffering from respiratory illness to limit transmission of these diseases.

Pneumonia-like conditions, ear fullness

Amid the rising number of influenza cases seen in the country, more patients are reporting pneumonia-like conditions and ear fullness, doctors said here on Saturday.

Speaking to IANS, Rajiv Gupta, Consultant - Internal Medicine, CK Birla Hospital, said that the "fullness of ear is an additional symptom noticed in this episode of flu".

"Many patients at day five or six of the illness start complaining of fullness in the ears or feel like something is blocked inside the ears. It is more common in young adults," he added.

According to Mayo Clinic, ear fullness occurs when your ears feel plugged.

"Your eustachian tubes - which run between your middle ear and the back of your nose - become blocked. A person may experience a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ears."

It is in some cases also accompanied with ear pain, dizziness and muffled hearing.

H3N2 deaths

Meanwhile, India has recorded its first two deaths due to seasonal influenza subtype H3N2, one each from Karnataka and Haryana. Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Friday also asked states to be on alert and closely monitor the situation in view of 'rising' cases.

"Held a meeting to review rising cases of #H3N2 Influenza virus in the country. Advisory issued to states to be on the alert and closely monitor the situation. Government of India is working with states and extending support for public health measures to address the situation," Mandaviya said in a tweet.

"Young children and old age persons with comorbidities are the most vulnerable groups in the context of seasonal influenza. So far, Karnataka and Haryana have confirmed one death each from H3N2 influenza," the ministry said.

H3N2 symptoms

While the symptoms are similar to the flu seen earlier -- fever, runny nose, body aches -- sometimes these patients would have other symptoms like abdominal, diarrhoea and severe muscle pain, Manoj Goel, Director, Pulmonolgy, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, told IANS.

"Occasionally, patients are also getting admitted with pneumonia-like features, elderly patients can have loss of consciousness.

"People also are coming more with the post viral syndrome like severe cough," and require oral medication and nebulizers," Goel said.

Gupta said the flu is not serious among "the younger population whose immune system is intact".

"But admissions and hospitalisation are mainly seen in people who have comorbidities in the form of cardiac disease, or respiratory disease like COPD or bronchial asthma or chronic kidney disease, or who are on immunosuppressive therapy like anti cancer drugs or steroids", he told IANS.

The doctors advised people to take precautions such as frequent hand washing, and usage of masks, especially in crowded places.

59 cases detected in Odisha

At least 59 H3N2 influenza cases were detected in Odisha during the last two months, said director of regional medical research centre (RMRC)-Bhubaneswar, Sanghamitra Pati here on Saturday.

"A total of 225 suspected flu samples from different parts of the state were tested for H3N2 at the RMRC-Bhubaneswar during January and February 2023, of which, 59 samples were found positive for the H3N2, one influenza- and one Covid-19", she said.

However, not a single case of H1N1 flu (swine flu) was detected from the suspected sample, she said.

Pati said that concerned healthcare institutions and public health officials have been informed about the detection.

So far, over 3,000 laboratory-confirmed H3N2 influenza cases have been reported from across the country.

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