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New Delhi, March 4 – The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has said that the Influenza A subtype H3N2 is the major cause of current respiratory illness in the country.
“Influenza A subtype H3N2 is the major cause of current respiratory illness,” the ICMR said, adding that the ICMR-DHR (Department of Health Research) has established pan-respiratory virus surveillance across 30 VRLDs (Viral research and diagnostic laboratories).
About half of all inpatients, admitted for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI), as well as outpatients being treated for influenza-like illness, are found to have influenza A H3N2, said ICMR.
“This subtype appears to cause more hospitalisation than other influenza subtypes. Of the hospitalised SARI patients with influenza A H3N2, about 92 per cent presented with fever, 86 per cent with cough, 27 per cent with breathlessness, 16 per cent with wheezing. Additionally, 16 per cent had clinical signs of pneumonia and 6 per cent had seizures,” ICMR said.
The apex research body also said that 10 per cent of SARI patients who have H3N2 needed oxygen, while 7 per cent required ICU care.
Meanwhile, recent data from ICMR also show that H3N2 has been in wide circulation for the last two-three months.
“A sudden increase in the number of patients having symptoms of cough, nausea, vomiting, sore throat, fever, body ache and diarrhoea in some cases has been noticed. While fever goes away at the end of three days, cough can persist for three weeks,” said the Indian Medical Association (IMA).
Further, the IMA said that the cases are typically seen in people over the age of 50 and below 15. Some are also reporting upper respiratory infection along with fever. “Air pollution” is also a precipitating factor.
It advised medical practitioners to give only symptomatic treatment as there is no need for antibiotics.
The IMA pointed out that people have started taking antibiotics like Athreycin and Amoxiclav etc without caring for dose and frequency and they stop once they start feeling better. They added that “this needs to be stopped as it leads to antibiotic resistance.”
“Whenever there will be a real use of antibiotics, they will not work due to the resistance,” the IMA wrote.
The medical association advised avoiding crowded places, practising good hand and respiratory hygiene practices as well as flu vaccination.
Harshal R. Salve, Professor at the Centre for Community Medicine, AIIMS, said the increase in the transmission of flu virus is due to abrupt “climatic conditions currently prevalent”.
“Serological surveillance through established mechanisms in the public health system by the government is essential to determine serotype of the virus and its endemic,” Salve told IANS.
Doctors from Primus Hospital, Chanakyapuri, noted that patients with asthma, and those with severe lung infections are finding difficulty in breathing.
Elderly people, children and pregnant women are most vulnerable to getting infected. Therefore, they must remain extra cautious while venturing outside, the doctors said.
“Patients having chronic ailments like asthma have to be extra cautious during such weather transitions as it can trigger severe respiratory issues and asthma attacks. During this time, even a minor respiratory problem must be reported to a pulmonologist or a physician to reduce the risk of escalating the problem,” Chhabra added.