The Union Health Ministry has said it is monitoring the H3N2 influenza outbreak through the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) network on a real-time basis. It is also tracking and keeping a close watch on morbidity and mortality, particularly among vulnerable groups like children, the elderly and people with co-morbidities. So far, Karnataka and Haryana have confirmed one death each from H3N2 influenza.
Seasonal influenza is an acute respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses, which circulate in all parts of the world. Traditionally, India witnesses two peaks of seasonal influenza: one between January and March, and the other in the post-monsoon season. “The cases arising from seasonal influenza are expected to decline from March-end. State surveillance officers are, therefore, fully geared up to meet this public health challenge,” according to a Health Ministry release.
WHAT ARE CLINICAL FEATURES OF H3N2?
Based on data, the Ministry has found that this subtype appears to cause more hospitalisations than other influenza sub-types. “About 92 per cent of patients presented themselves with fever, 86 per cent with cough, 27 per cent with breathlessness, 16 per cent with wheezing, 16 per cent with pneumonia and six per cent with seizures. About 10 per cent of patients needed oxygen and seven per cent required ICU care,” it said.
WHAT ARE PREVENTIVE PROTOCOLS
The Ministry has reprised some of the COVID-time protocols as they apply to all flu viruses. These include wearing masks in crowded places, ensuring personal hygiene by washing hands frequently and not eating or touching the face and mouth without doing so, covering face and mouth while coughing and sneezing and taking plenty of fluids. It recommends avoiding physical contact and if infected, avoid spitting and social interaction, not take antibiotics or random medication except paracetamol and follow the doctor’s advisory.
REAL TIME SURVEILLANCE
A near real-time surveillance of cases of Influenza like Illness (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) reported in OPDs and IPDs of health facilities is being undertaken by the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) at 28 sites. According to the latest data available on IDSP-IHIP (integrated health Information Platform), a total of 3,038 laboratory confirmed cases of various subtypes of influenza, including H3N2, have been reported till March 9. This includes 1,245 cases in January, 1,307 in February and 486 cases in March (till now).
Further, the IDSP-IHIP data from health facilities indicate that during the month of January 2023, a total of 397,814 cases of Acute Respiratory Illness/Influenza Like Illness (ARI/ILI) were reported from the country that increased slightly to 436,523 during February 2023. In the first 9 days of March 2023, this number stands at 133,412 cases. The corresponding data for admitted cases of severe acute respiratory illness (SARI) is 7,041 cases in January 2023, 6,919 during February 2023 and 1,866 during the first nine days of March 2023. The H3N2 virus is the predominant sub-type among the samples testing positive for influenza since the beginning of this year.
PUBLIC HEALTH MEASURES
The Ministry has issued guidelines on categorisation of patients, treatment protocol and guidelines on ventilatory management to States/UTs. It has even advised vaccination of health care workers dealing with H1N1 cases.
DRUGS AND LOGISTICS
Since Oseltamivir is the drug recommended by WHO, the Government us making it available through the public health system free of cost. The Government has allowed the sale of Oseltamivir under Schedule H1 of Drug and Cosmetic Act in February 2017 for wider accessibility and availability. Though adequate logistics is available with States, the Government is ready to provide additional support to States. Additionally, NITI Aayog will hold an inter-ministerial meeting tomorrow.