H3N2 flu virus cases increasing in India

Subhashis Mittra-WIDE ANGLE

A number of people have fallen ill due to spread of H3N2 flu virus. The number of such cases is now increasing. It has been noticed that if a member in a family gets infected, others too fall ill if preventive measures are not taken. 

According to doctors, it takes three to seven days for a person to fully recover from the illness. Because of the spread of the virus, several people have rightly re-started using face masks and taking other precautionary measures to protect themselves from virus. The virus is spreading in various states. 

Medical experts have advised people to take necessary precautions and avoid getting panicky. If the advised measures are taken, the spread of the virus can be minimised. Doctors say that H3N2 is a seasonal flu and will be over by March ending. Till that time precautions have to be taken to stop the spread of the virus so that people are safe from the virus related illness and their time is saved also.

In past the COVID-19 related precautionary measures led to heavy loss of time for students due to lockdown. For months the students could not go to schools. Even the online classes were not able to completely make up the losses on academic front. Business sector also suffered badly due to COVID-19 and is yet to overcome the losses. The impact of the huge losses continue to hit the business even today. 

Latest reports say that COVID infection has also reported a spike after four months. However, the weekly data from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) reveals that H3N2 has of late taken the lead pushing COVID-19 aside. Two deaths due to H3N2 were also reported in the country. 

A total of 3,038 lab-confirmed cases of various subtypes of influenza, including H3N2 have been reported till last week 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.

Taking preventive measures is the need of the hour this time. It is heartening to see the proactiveness shown by the Central and some state governments in dealing with the seasonal rise in cases of the H3N2 virus — a subtype of Influenza virus. 

The government has taken it seriously and issued guidelines for integrated surveillance of respiratory pathogens resulting in cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) or severe acute respiratory infection (SARI). It has also asked hospitals to keep themselves ready in case of a heavy influx of cases. 

If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed at least 5,30,780 people in India to date, has taught us tough lessons. None can disagree that humanity has paid an enormous price to learn these lessons. Unfortunately, we appear to be forgetting these lessons rather too fast.

The primary reason behind the recent spike in the cases of the H3N2 sub-type of influenza virus points towards our failure to sustain the behavioural precautions that need to become a routine part of our lives. 

The habit of hand sanitation and mask-wearing should be seen as a part of a new lifestyle. Peculiar though it was, the COVID-19 pandemic reflected a general picture of the viral threat that has evolved in our times, thanks to climatic and lifestyle changes. Resurfacing a range of different viruses and strains over the past couple of years should have been a clear signal that viruses cannot be shrugged off our shoulders so conveniently, they are here to stay.

Defiance from this looming threat can anytime throw us into another ordeal if a dangerous strain resurfaces in any part of the world. Interestingly, the previous Saturday marked the completion of three years of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing humans to take a pause and retrospect whether the threat is now completely off the mark.

Daily Covid cases have dipped to all-time lows, economic activities are approaching pre-Covid levels and most people prefer not to abide by restrictions — self-imposed or otherwise. Prominent institutions that were tracking real-time data around the pandemic cases — which was extremely critical for keeping the situation under control — have now decided to give it up. 

Given that the threat is diluted for the moment, the quality and nature of data collection is most likely to come down, as is seen in countries like the US. But to be sure, the strains of Sars-Cov-2 are still in circulation and cases keep coming, though at a much smaller scale. 

However, the possibility of the emergence of newer, more dangerous strains cannot be ruled out. A fine line between caution and complacency needs to be drawn on a sustainable basis. 

The cautions should not be reactive, coming at a time when danger is already knocking at the door. It should be proactive and consistent, imbibed in the general lifestyle of the people. 

It is high time that Central and state governments adhere to the prescribed five-fold strategy of testing, tracking, treating, vaccinating, and following COVID-appropriate behaviour. People also need to ensure proper personal hygiene, cough with adequate protection and avoid indoor gatherings. The safety of vulnerable populations has to be prioritised. 

The government would also do well to make sure that an adequate amount of data is collected and stored. Safety should not be a disaster response. It should prevent disasters from occurring.


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