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Spotlight- Andhra Pradesh

Erring on the side of caution as influenza cases rise in Andhra Pradesh

Officials seek to assuage fears of a surge in H3N2 and COVID-19 infections as cases of influenza are reported widely across Andhra Pradesh

March 24, 2023 08:42 am | Updated 12:42 pm IST - VIJAYAWADA

Patients form a queue to see a doctor at a Community Health Centre in Visakhapatnam. Cases of fevers, cold and cough have seen a rise in the city in recent weeks

Patients form a queue to see a doctor at a Community Health Centre in Visakhapatnam. Cases of fevers, cold and cough have seen a rise in the city in recent weeks | Photo Credit: K.R. Deepak

The State is in the grip of seasonal illnesses, with lakhs of people reportedly suffering from fever, headache and related ailments for days. The rise in such cases, meanwhile, is leading to fears of an outbreak of H3N2 influenza virus and COVID-19.

During the past few weeks, lakhs of fever cases accompanied by cough and prolonged headache were reported across the State.

This month, as of March 21, over 2.29 lakh fever cases were reported in the State according to data obtained from the Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP), a Central government’s initiative which is being effectively used by the State government’s Health Department. Till March 8, nearly 77,000 lakh fevers were reported.

However, officials say there is no abnormal rise in fever cases. In January, 3.34 lakh fever cases and in February, 3.27 lakh cases were registered. Many more cases are reported at private hospitals as a large number of people in urban areas get treated there.

Health and Family Welfare Department Commissioner J. Nivas said that the COVID-19 positivity rate in the State is negligible at 0.3%.

“Fever survey is being conducted to find symptomatic cases and it was taken up as a precautionary measure,” Mr. Nivas said, adding that there was no cause for alarm as there are no cases of respiratory illness.

Explaining the methodology of reporting fever cases in the State, Mr. Nivas said that all the health sub-centres, Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) and laboratories are uploading all the fever case details to the IHIP to check the prevalence of the diseases. The number of cases is an indication of the outpatient cases. Going by these reports, there is no rise in the cases, Mr. Nivas said.

Influenza H3N2 testing labs soon

Mr. Nivas said that the Health Department is going to set up Influenza H3N2 test centres at the regional level in Visakhapatnam and Guntur by the weekend.

“We have contacted the National Institute of Virology, Pune and ordered H3N2 test kits. Once the kits are received, the test centres will be opened. This is a precautionary measure to be prepared for any surge in the future,” he said.

He said that prolonged symptoms such as headache, cough and throat pain after fever could be due to unusual weather conditions.

Manipal Hospitals senior consultant and general physician Dr. Manoj Kumar said that there is a rise in H3N2 influenza cases and it is important for people to take necessary precautions.

He said symptoms of H3N2 infection include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body ache, headache, chills, and fatigue. “In some cases, it can lead to severe illness, especially in young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems,” Dr. Manoj said.

“When infected, it is important to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms. Antibiotics are not effective in treating viral infections like influenza. In fact, unnecessary use of antibiotics can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” Dr. Manoj said.

While the virus has not caused hospital admissions, loss of productivity and the cost of unnecessary testing and indiscriminate use of antibiotics are a concern, he added.

Wearing a mask is not mandatory in the State, but experts have advised people with flu symptoms to use masks.

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