Both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have seen a rise in the number of seasonal flu cases over the last couple of weeks but health authorities say the situation is under control and there is no need for panic.
Health Departments in both the Telugu states are closely monitoring the situation in view of the spread of H3N2 virus. The Indian Council of Medical research (ICMR) has already alerted both the states.
According to officials in Telangana, the state is logging about 100 cases every day but only a few of them with complicated symptoms.
Currently, not all the flu cases being reported at government and private hospitals are being tested for H3N2.
According to Dr K. Shankar, Superintendent, Fever Hospital, random samples are being sent to the Institute of Preventive Medicine (IPM). He said if required three more testing centres will be made operational.
Equipment used for testing for Covid-19 and Chikungunya are being used for testing for H3N2, which is a variant of swine flu.
According to healthcare experts, H3N2, a subtype of influenza A, appears to cause more hospitalisation than other subtypes.
The symptoms of H3N2 include high-grade fever, cough, breathing problems and pneumonia.
Children below five years, senior citizens and those with low immunity are requiring admission in hospitals and a few cases are in need of oxygen support.
Health officials in Andhra Pradesh said 74 people infected with H3N2 were admitted to hospitals during the last two months. However, most of the cases do not require hospitalisation.
The experts attribute a surge in the cases to lack of restrictions for public gatherings and people not taking precautions like wearing masks. Both the states are allowing all public congregations, meetings, conferences while religious and tourist places have opened up.
Many medical tourists from various parts of the world are visiting Hyderabad. Following the surge in the flu cases, hospitals have made wearing of masks compulsory in their premises.
"For last 2-3 weeks we have been seeing a sudden rise in H3N2 cases presenting with fever, throat pain, cough and diarrhea. There is no situation of any panic," Dr Praveen Kumar Kulkarni, senior consultant physician, KIMS Hospitals, told IANS.
According to him, only one in 10 or one in 20 cases getting complicated requiring oxygen.
"Those with early symptoms should not delay treatment. Take basic precautions like wearing a mask and washing of hands and approach nearest physicians in case of any symptoms," he said.
He pointed out that cough is persistent symptoms in these cases lasting for 7 to 10 days.
"This is a variant of influenza virus. Usually we see it every year from December to February when there is a cold climate, more predominantly in the north of India. We see the viral infection every year but it keeps evolving and mutating every year. Once in a while the virus causes some serious complications. When we see this we call it antigenic drift. Similar antigenic drift happened in 2009 when we saw a pandemic with H1N1. H3N2 is also a variant of H1N1," said Dr Ravindra Kumar, a consultant general physician and diabetologist.
"Recently we have seen a few serious complications with patients having some serious complications like prolonged cough for 3 to 4 weeks. In any viral infection you have a cough for a week or 10 days. In this kind of fever, people are suffering from a prolonged cough significantly at night when they are lying down. This is happening due to inflammation in lungs caused by influenza virus. We are noticing other symptoms: fever, body pain, sore throat and severe fatigue," he said.
According to him the same symptoms are seen in any other infection but in H3N2, there is severity. "People are taking more time to recover. Coming to the current situation I think it's definitely under control for normal and healthy people but high risk groups with pre-existing medical conditions like heart diseases, kidney issues, diabetes, cancer and immunosuppressive conditions and patients on steroid medications need to be watchful," he added.
According to Dr Gowri Shankar Bapanpalli, Medical Director and Consultant General Physician, SLG Hospitals, there is severity of symptoms in seasonal flu and numbers are also more. He, however, said they are not sending samples for H3N2 tests. Patients are running temperatures up to 102-103 with body pains. Such patients are being treated with Paracetamol, medicines to control cough and B-complex-vitamin. "Only in severe cases we are giving antiviral agents and if necessary, antibiotics. In 80-90 per cent of cases there is no need for antiviral or antibiotics," he said.
The doctors said that the flu is common during winter and rainy season. With summer setting in, he hoped that things would get better.
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