With Covid-19 prompting people to maintain social distancing, wear masks and follow cough etiquette, Kerala has reported a sharp fall in flu cases in June, a month which used to see a spike in fever cases with the onset of the monsoon.
A review of the data on the integrated disease surveillance programme of the state Health Department shows that flu cases have reported a fall of 63 per cent in June this year compared to the corresponding month last year. In June, 2020, the state has reported only 95,544 fever cases compared to 2,60,072 cases in June 2019.
Dr Amar Fettle, the Health Department’s nodal officer for Public Health Emergency of International Concern, said every year there used to be a spike in viral fever cases in Kerala during the monsoon. “We have always been urging the public to follow cough hygiene during this period to reduce the viral fever cases. However, this time, the campaign to wear mask and maintain social distancing has been generally accepted by people. This has reduced the chances of spread of several viruses, which people used to transmit in the community. This shows proper cough hygiene and supporting care at home can reduce unnecessary intake of medicines,” Amar said.
The fall in flu cases reported in hospitals is also reflected in the state’s Rs 1,200-crore pharmaceutical sector in terms of dip in business, ruling out the assumption that people have been skipping hospitals due to the Covid-19 scare and taking medicines from the counters.
All Kerala Chemists and Druggists Association spokesman Tomy Varkey said the sale of medicines for communicable diseases, flu and epidemics has drastically decreased in the state. “The trend began with lockdown and still continues… The general vigilance against Covid-19 has made people wear masks and keep distance. There is a tendency to avoid public transport also. This has brought down communicable diseases and subsequently impacted sale of medicines… June-July seasons used to report four to five times increase in sale of medicines in tune with the increase in turn out at hospitals. But this time, the sale has come down by 60 per cent,” he said.
Public health expert Dr Ramankutty V said social distancing has brought down the number of flu cases. “If we read the fall in flu cases reported in hospitals along with the dip in sales of medicines, we can assume that flu cases have come down in Kerala now. There could have been a tendency among people to avoid hospitals fearing Covid-19. But, the fall in sale of medicines have ruled out that aspect,’’ he said.
There is a tangible fall in the number of flu cases in the first six months of 2020 compared to any corresponding period since 2017. This year, in the six months up to June 30, Kerala reported only 7.74 lakh flu cases as against cases of 11-12 lakh in the previous years for the corresponding period.
Kerala has made wearing a face mask mandatory since April 29 and non-compliance was made a punishable offence. Police have been imposing a fine of Rs 200 for failure to wear masks in public.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines