Even as India is seeing a spurt in Influenza cases, caused by the H3N2 virus, health experts on Monday suggested people take precautionary measures such as the use of masks, and better hand hygiene, as well as an annual flu shot.
A total of 3,038 lab-confirmed cases of various subtypes of influenza including H3N2 have been reported till March 9 by the states, as per the latest data available on IDSP-IHIP (Integrated Health Information Platform).
This includes 1,245 cases in January, 1,307 in February, and 486 cases till March 9.
“In my opinion, for the time being, the government can again make masks mandatory at least in highly vulnerable zones like public transport, hospitals, airports, railway stations, and other public conveyances. People should avoid visiting crowded places, or wear a mask whenever in public,” Dr. Sunil Sekri, Associate Consultant – Internal Medicine, Max Hospital, Gurugram, told Media.
The respiratory virus “spreads through droplets, which means that the secretions can spread from person to person, and most people touch their nose and mouth at some point, or that secretions can remain on the fingers and when they shake hands with other people”, it can likely spread, said Dr. Rajeev Jayadevan, co-chairman of the Indian Medical Association’s National Covid-19 Task Force, making a case for the need of masks particularly in crowded indoor gatherings.
According to data from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), there has been a combination of respiratory viruses ranging from Covid-19 virus, swine flu (H1N1), H3N2, and the seasonal Victoria and Yamagata lineages of influenza B viruses in circulation.
H3N2 and H3N1 are both types of influenza A viruses, commonly known as the flu.
Some of the most common symptoms include prolonged fever, cough, running nose, & body pain. But in severe cases, people may also experience breathlessness and/or wheezing.
Meanwhile, the Covid infection has also reported a spike after four months as 524 daily Covid cases were reported on Sunday.
“For the last three years, we have learned how respiratory infections can be prevented. Because the infections go out and come in from the nose and mouth, you need to cover this area and that is masking. Proper masks are needed, particularly when you are in crowded places,” said Dr. Iswar Gilada, an infectious disease expert.
“Masking is important, particularly for those who are both with comorbidities and the family members of those who are having such kind of people at their home,” he said.
The experts also suggested people wash their hands before eating or utilizing any public transit with soap or sanitizer to minimise the risk of infection.
Another thing is flu shots, which need to be taken annually to help boost immunity. It is because “a vaccine that you took last year might not necessarily cover the influenza virus that’s going to come next year or the year after. It will give you some baseline protection but it may not give you the best protection”, Dr. Jayadevan told Media.
Meanwhile, the experts also stated that antibiotics should be avoided in treating the flu as it works only against bacteria and not viruses.
“Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections like influenza or Covid-19. Antibiotics are designed to target and kill bacteria, not viruses. In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed if a bacterial infection is suspected or if there is a secondary bacterial infection, such as pneumonia, that develops as a result of a viral illness,” Dr. Laxman Jessani, Consultant, Infectious Diseases, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai, told Media.
“However, it is important to use antibiotics judiciously and only when they are truly necessary to help prevent the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” Jessani added.