In the last few weeks, Mumbai has witnessed a significant rise in influenza infections, with symptoms like fever and persistent cough. Some patients have even required hospitalisation. This year’s infection is more virulent than the cases seen previous year, with a delay in recovery, said experts. Doctors attribute it to low inoculation rate of annual influenza vaccines and subsequent impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Major hospitals in Mumbai are recording 10-12 cases of influenza daily and most are aged between 25 to 50 years. They have reported symptoms such as high fever, throat pain, cough and cold. Majority are found to be positive for H3N2, which is a sub-type of Influenza A virus, commonly referred to as the flu. “We are witnessing an increase in the number of influenza cases and many of them are quite aggressive. Some patients require hospitalisation and even ICU admissions,” said Dr Sanjith Saseedharan, consultant and head of critical care, S L Raheja Hospital, Mahim.
This year, the symptoms seem to be more severe because of multiple reasons, said doctors. Many elderly patients with co-morbidities would have missed out on their annual influenza vaccine. This could also be due to the precautionary measures many followed, including avoiding crowded spaces and masking.
“The pandemic could have also changed the virulence of the organisms,” said Dr Saseedharan.
Treatment for mildly symptomatic patients largely involves antipyretics, decongestants, and analgesics if the fever is high. However, if such patients require hospitalisation, they need antiviral therapy.
“Severe patients, who have respiratory distress and difficulty in breathing, require oxygen, at times ventilator,” said Dr Saseedharan.
All viral illnesses are known to reduce the immunity of those infected and this may lead to the advent of a secondary bacterial infection in a week. But it has now been noticed that these patients are getting secondary infections earlier, indicating significant change in their immunity. “The usual viral illnesses are known to be self-limiting within five to seven days, however, we have noticed that viral illness symptoms last for almost two to three weeks,” Dr Saseedharan added.
Dr Vimal Pahuja, metabolic physician at Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital, Powai, said the viruses are difficult to treat. “Patients have severe weakness. Also, recurrences and relapses are seen due to high case load.”
Dr Harshad Limaye, senior consultant, infectious diseases, Nanavati Hospital, said, “There is no reason for panic as almost all patients are recovering within 3-4 days with Tamiflu treatment. To prevent the spread of the flu, it is important to continue wearing triple-layer surgical masks and maintaining good hand hygiene”.