Express News Service

NEW DELHI: If you have had a persistent raging cough for weeks that not only hurts your chest or stomach but even makes you hoarse, or you are losing your voice for some days, then you are among those hundreds of people who are suffering from this viral infection which is currently affecting people all across India.

The viral infection – accompanied by fever, cough, sore throat, troubled breathing, headache, muscle pain, cold, body chill and fatigue – has even affected the medical fraternity, with many doctors saying that it has not spared them too.

Though it is not Covid, it leaves you exhausted, physically and mentally, as the cough lasts for weeks.

The viral infection, which has Covid-like symptoms, is so vicious that many took to Twitter about this new “cold bug.” Among them was the acclaimed economist and writer Sanjeev Sanyal. 

Minutes after his tweet, which went viral, many responded to him from different Indian cities, some of them doctors, saying that they too suffered from the nasty viral infection.

Dr Rejeev Jayadevan, an epidemiologist and co-chairman of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) Covid-19 task force, said there are various reasons for the rise in viral infection, which has similar symptoms like Covid, but the main cause is Influenza A.

“Though Covid continues its low tide in India, various viruses are circulating causing respiratory illness,” he said, adding that some previously healthy people who had Covid have gone on to develop a chronic cough. “This is attributed to airway hyperreactivity. Fortunately, this is responsive to medications,” he added.

The best way is to isolate oneself from others, just like in Covid-19, to stop the infection from spreading.

According to Dr Sushila Kataria, Senior Director, Internal Medicine, Medanta Hospital, Gurugram, for the past month, she has seen an increase in the number of flu cases, and it is due to Influenza A subtype H3N2.

“This time, the cases are the same, but the fever severity is a bit more, and the cough is more intense. The cough is severe because of swelling on vocal cords and laryngitis,” she told The New Indian Express.

Prof Dr S K Chhabra, Head of Department – Pulmonary, Sleep and Critical Care Medicine, Primus Hospital, Chanakyapuri, blamed the abrupt change in season from winter to summer for the increased hospital patient load. 

“While there are more cardiovascular cases in the winter, there are also more viral infections during the transitional conditions,” he said, adding that as the weather changed quickly, they saw an increase of 90 percent in patients reporting viral infections in their OPDs.

He added that people with viral infections face additional challenges due to pollution. “Children, pregnant women, and older adults are most susceptible to infection. They must therefore exercise extreme caution when going outside,” he added.

Dr Sunita Kapoor, Director and Consultant Pathologist at City X-Ray and Scan Clinic, many people are visiting them for respiratory infections.

“Most of these viral respiratory illnesses are due to H3N2 (Influenza A), a few Influenza B and Rhinovirus, but not Covid or H1N1,” she added. 

Dr Manish Jangra, the founding member of FAIMA Doctors Association, said that about 30 percent of doctors, including senior professors, he is in touch with have complained of suffering from the viral infection. “I, too, was ill with the same symptom. I had to use a nebuliser as I had trouble breathing and chest pain because of a persistent cough for over 25 days.”

As the cases pile up, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) advised against the indiscriminate use of antibiotics. 

Dr Jayadevan said antibiotics are effective only for infections caused by bacteria, not viruses.  “Unnecessary use of antibiotics, often by self-medication, helped by easy availability over-the-counter is a problem in India. People tend to buy antibiotics as soon as they get a fever or cough, often without qualified medical advice. This leads to AMR or antimicrobial resistance – a situation when bacteria that are exposed to antibiotics develop new mechanisms to become resistant to these medications,” he said.

Dr Deepak Sharma, Consultant Pulmonologist, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, said among the steps people should take is to avoid any exercise as cold and dry air accentuate bronchoconstriction. “This is leading to feelings of suffocation and breathlessness, with many people complaining of chest tightness, wheezing, and even change in voice,” he said. 

Not all, but most of it can be prevented or avoided by staying hydrated, covering up adequately, using humidifiers, taking the flu vaccine, and inhalers when necessary, he added.

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