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Influenza in India: What You Need to Know

Every year, there are outbreaks of influenza in India, particularly during the winter months. Influenza viruses are constantly evolving, and new strains emerge every year. In India, the most common strains of influenza viruses that have been identified include influenza A (H1N1), influenza A (H3N2), and influenza B viruses.

What is Influenza?

Influenza is a type of viral infection that is highly contagious and affects the respiratory system, including the nose, throat and lungs. There are 4 main types of influenza - influenza A, B, C and D, basis the type of virus that causes the infection. More information on influenza is available here.

Causes of Influenza in India

Influenza is a contagious illness that spreads through respiratory droplets. This happens when an infected person sneezes, talks or coughs, or sneezes. As a result, it spreads rapidly in crowded places such as offices, schools, market, public transportation and other areas with high population density. Although influenza cases in India can occur throughout the year, the flu virus typically spreads during the winter months, from November to February, or after the monsoon season. Following are the main factors that contribute to increase in the flu cases in India:

High Population Density: India has a high population density, particularly in urban areas which facilitate the spread of influenza in India.

Climate: Winter months are the favourable time for the flu virus to survive and spread. In addition to that the rapid change in weather from cold to hot hot to cold is another reason behind increasing influenza cases in India.

Poor hygiene practices: Poor hygiene practices such as not covering one's mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, not washing hands frequently, and not maintaining cleanliness can increase the risk of transmission of flu virus. Hence, hand washing is essential to stay safe from flu.

Low vaccination rates: Low vaccination rates in India can lead to a higher risk of influenza outbreaks and increase the spread of the virus.

Limited access to healthcare: Limited access to healthcare systems in certain parts of India can delay the diagnosis and treatment of the flu. This may contribute to the spread of the virus.

Symptoms of Influenza in India

Symptoms of influenza in India are similar to that of the common cold. But the flu can lead to severe illness. Common symptoms of Influenza in India are as follows:

A high fever usually above 100.4°F

Sore throat, Dry cough, and runny nose

Body aches and muscle pain

Fatigue and weakness

Chills and sweat

Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea

Prevention and Treatment of Influenza in India

It is tough to contain the spread of new flu in India because infected people can spread the infection even before the symptoms show up. Therefore, it is even more important to prevent the flu outbreak and keep the nation healthy.

Following are few preventive measures that must be undertaken to check the increase in flu cases in India :

Vaccination against influenza: A flu vaccine stimulates the body's immune system to produce antibodies that can fight against the flu virus. Everyone above six months of age should get an annual flu vaccine. It protects you from the flu and prevents the flu complications too.

Good Hygiene: Wash your hands with soap or Dettol Liquid handwash and water before and after meals. Ensure your nose and mouth are covered when you sneeze or cough. Use Dettol mask ? in the public places. Avoid touching your face unnecessarily.

Avoid close contact with sick people: Staying close to a sick person can pose a higher risk of flu contraction. Hence, avoid hugging, shaking hands or coming in close contact with an infected person.

Clean and Disinfect the surfaces: The frequently touched surfaces should be regularly cleaned and then disinfected.

Eat healthy and nutritious food: Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced meal. A healthy body is better equipped to fight against the infections.

Treatment of Influenza in India

Influenza is quite common in India and here are the treatment options for it:

Medications: Antiviral medications block the ability of the virus to replicate in the body and should be taken within 48 hours of onset of symptoms. It should be taken only on recommendation of your treating doctor as most of patient do not need these drugs. You can rely on over-the-counter medications to relieve fever, pain, and headache associated with the flu.

Rest and Hydration: Take proper rest and drink plenty of fluids to support the body's immune system and promote recovery.

No antibiotics: Refrain from using antibiotics as they are not effective against viral infections of flu.

Talk to a healthcare professional before taking any medicines to ensure they are safe and appropriate for you.

Influenza in India: Statistics and Trends

The new flu in India that is causing a rapid rise in cases is the influenza A strain from H3N2. According to the latest data available on IDSP-IHIP (integrated health Information Platform), "A total of 3038 laboratory-confirmed cases of subtypes of Influenza including H3N2 have been reported till 9th March 2023 by the States.[i]"

One of the major reasons for increasing flu cases in India is the drastic climate change. The sudden shift from cold to hot hot to cold causes sneezing and coughing in people which eventually leads to flu. Children below 5 years of age and adults above the age of 65 years are at a higher risk of contracting flu. Obesity, smoking, pregnancy, and crowded living conditions can increase influenza cases in India.

It is essential to take precautions to prevent the spread of the flu, such as getting vaccinated, washing hands regularly, covering your mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing, and avoiding close contact with sick people. If you experience flu-like symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

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