New Delhi: Emphasising that there is no need to panic about the persisting influenza situation in the country, Dr Sharad Kumar Agarwal, National President, The Indian Medical Association (IMA), informed that one needs to be vigilant, amidst the growing concern on the rising cases of influenza A H3N2, also known as the spring flu, are rising in the country. Patients are experiencing prolonged high-grade fever, a dry cough, breathlessness, and body aches. Due to this the sales of various medications, such as bronchial cough syrups, anti-allergy medicines, and paracetamol tablets.
“After 2-3 years of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have systems in place that are better trained than ever to tackle and handle such sporadic infections. State governments are taking precautionary measures as they are a little apprehensive about the new infections, especially since the COVID-19 outbreak,” he added.
Karnataka Health Minister K Sudhakar called a meeting on Sunday to deliberate on preventive measures to be taken regarding the spread of influenza A subtype ‘H3N2’. Andhra Pradesh’s health authorities are also on high alert after the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) raised concern about the rising fever cases linked to A H3N2 influenza.
Speaking exclusively to ETHealthworld, Dr Agarwal said, “The rise in the H3N2 cases is an extension of the common cold and flu, which we are used to seeing between October and February every year in India,” adding that “Usually the recovery is within three to four days. But in the H3N2 cases, the fever is prolonging for more than a week or more. The cough is persisting for three weeks.”
When asked about the seasonal flu causing greater severity of infections among people this time, the IMA President called it a virus specific activity and said, “Viral infections will come and you cannot control them. But what we can do is avoid crowded areas, wash our hands regularly, maintain social distance, and wear masks. The Holi festival is around the corner, and it is important for people to follow the advisory issued.”
The sale of over-the-counter medicines in the nation’s capital has reportedly multiplied over the previous month. They include bronchial cough syrups, allergy medications, and paracetamol tablets, whose sales have increased by more than 25 per cent just in the past month.
Dr Agarwal staunchly disapproved of the idea of self medication and buying medicines from the chemists without consulting the doctors. “People are advised not to buy medicines directly from the store because they are not aware of the right quantity and dosage for a particular medication. Usually, people go to a medical store to buy medicines during infections. The chemist gives them antibiotics for two to three days. People hardly know the doses, and by the time symptoms subside, they stop taking antibiotics.”
This situation, as described by Dr Agarwal, leads to antibiotic resistance. “And, in future, when they actually require antibiotics, it doesn’t work.”
All viral infections don’t require antibiotics at the initial stage, unless there is a super added bacterial infection. The IMA’s president elaborated further, “It is a thumb rule, if there is a viral infection, then ideally we should not use antibiotics.”
The nation’s premier doctors’ organisation earlier on Saturday issued an advisory for the doctors to avoid the use of antibiotics in the aftermath of rising H3N2 cases in the country. Reaffirming that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global problem and that millions of people die worldwide due to the development of drug-resistant pathogens, Dr Agarwal informed, “It is an emerging problem not only in India but in the rest of the world as well. The reason behind issuing such an advisory is the irrational use of antibiotics.”
The IMA has also constituted a standing committee on antimicrobial resistance. The committee aims to work with, follow, and closely monitor the global practises that will be used to sensitise doctors and clinicians in India.
“Backed up with global data, the doctors and clinicians should use antibiotics rationally, not with whims and fancies,” the IMA president concluded.
AMR is one of the top 10 worldwide public health hazards to humanity, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). And according to the United Nations (UN) organisation focused on global health, the success of contemporary medicine in treating infections, notably those during major surgery and cancer chemotherapy, would be at greater danger without effective antimicrobials.