The influenza virus usually infects the upper respiratory tract, such as the throat (pharynx) and voice box (larynx), but it can be deadly if it infects the lower respiratory tract windpipe (trachea) and the lungs, including the bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli.
“What is rampant in city this winter season is severe influenza. Throat pain, high fever, body ache, inability to breathe. Covid is much less and on contrary, we are seeing more of severe influenza cases. It is not killing people but the symptoms are very harsh. People are getting admitted also this time which is usually not a requirement. And this winter particularly, we saw it more than usual. And more than one family member is getting infected,” said Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Apollo.
Dr Kapil Sikka, professor of ENT at AIIMS, observed that this time, throat-related issues appeared to be more prevalent among seasonal influenza patients.
“However, not every throat pain is tonsillitis, this type of infection is basically tonsil of pharyngitis accompanied by upper respiratory tract infection. People often misuse antibiotics by consuming it assuming throat pain to be tonsillitis. Self-medication should be limited to gargles; for pain relief, take paracetamols and stay hydrated. As season change, there is change in respiratory infections as well. Dr Kapil Sikka, AIIMS ENT Professor.
Influenza are of four types and most commonly seen among people is Influenza A which has got two strains - H1N1 and H3N2. Apparently, the strain that has been found to be infecting most people is H3N2.
“Earlier we saw more cases of H1N1 but after Covid this strain H3N2 has super seeded. We had been doing influenza A testing on all patients coming to hospital and majority was found to be carrying H3N2 strain positive. And this strain is causing high-grade fever, having multiple types of throat-related infections. Those who were coming were having respiratory tract infection, and showing bilateral patches in the lungs during CT-Scan. Influenza was also involving lungs in many patients especially those with comorbidities such as asthma, diabetes, kidney related problems -- they showed more severity with Influenza A. They were requiring ICU admission, oxygen and other supportive medications such as BiPap,” said Dr Vikas Maurya, director, HoD, Pulmonology, Fortis.
It was also noticed that compared to other winters, this time the symptoms from influenza persisted for a longer time period. A reason for long infection can be addition of bacterial infection in the upper respiratory tract along with existing virus infection.
“If someone is not getting well of influenza, then we opt for bacteria test. Then we go for treatment accordingly. The treatment for virus is systematic and general. Bacteria, like the influenza virus, has a strain that causes respiratory infection, such as Streptococcus, which attacks the throat and mouth. It is also possible to have both influenza and bacterial infection both increasing the severity and the symptoms remain persistent,” said Dr Hitesh Verma, additional professor, ENT, AIIMS.