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The Need to Protect Against the Rising Influenza Burden in India

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News Desk, News Nation 360: India is currently witnessing a significant rise in influenza infection across the country. According to the integrated health information platform, India has seen a large number of cases of acute respiratory illness or influenza-like illness from January to March this year, amounting to nearly one million. Flu cases were also on the rise last year, with a roughly 16-fold increase in India from 2021. West Bengal alone saw a 5-fold increase in influenza cases reported in 2022 from 2021. Further, in 2023, West Bengal witnessed rising influenza infections. Kolkata alone is seeing a 6 to 7% positivity rate of the samples tested. As seasonal influenza poses a public health concern, it is important to take measures to address India’s flu burden. Seasonal influenza, or the flu, is an acute respiratory infection caused by various types of influenza viruses, of which types A (including subtypes H1N1, H3N2 and more) and B cause the most cases during the flu season. When people are affected by the flu, they typically experience mild to severe symptoms, including fever, dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, fatigue, headache or body ache, and a runny nose. Infection can be transmitted from an infected person through the air when they talk, cough, or sneeze. As it spreads easily, individuals may be at risk of catching the flu in public settings, like schools or workplaces. People can take various steps to prevent the spread of influenza. These include frequent handwashing or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, covering one’s nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, avoiding touching one’s nose, eyes, or mouth, and staying away from people showing symptoms. People who are unwell should also isolate to avoid spreading the infection. Additionally, as the flu is a vaccine-preventable disease, influenza vaccination is one of the most effective preventive strategies to maintain immunity for a long duration. Influenza affects people of all ages. However, certain groups including children under 5 years of age, the

elderly (above 65 years of age), pregnant women, people with comorbidities (like diabetes, kidney, heart, or liver diseases, asthma) and immunocompromised individuals are at a higher risk of complications. With more people taking the flu vaccine, which has been proven to be safe and effective, it helps promote layered protection so that everyone, especially including at-risk individuals in the community, can live healthier lives. Influenza vaccination can also prevent 70 to 90% of influenza-specific illnesses among healthy adults. Dr Raja Dhar, Director and Head of the Department of Pulmonology, The Calcutta Medical Research Institute stated that the flu cases have been rapidly rising in Kolkata this season. Between January and March 2023, they were seeing 2 to 3 influenza cases per week. The majority of infections this season are caused by the H3N2 subtype. It is extremely important for people to take preventive steps to not only safeguard themselves and stay healthy but also protect the wider community. Influenza is a vaccine-preventable disease, and taking an annual flu shot based on the updated WHO recommendations on the currently circulating virus strain is a safe and effective public health measure that more people should adopt. According to Dr JejoeKaran Kumar, Director, of Medical Affairs, Abbott India,  at Abbott, they are committed to helping people in India stay healthy. They champion the Mothers Against Influenza Initiative and they work with healthcare professionals and associations to ensure they raise awareness on measures people can take to protect against infections such as the flu so that people can live healthier lives. ”Abbott’s 2030 sustainability goals are committed to supporting efforts to address noncommunicable diseases and deliver scalable, integrated solutions to help reduce infectious diseases through their solutions and education programs. 

Pic : Krishnendu Kundu

Report : Anustup Kundu

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