As H3N2 influenza virus case numbers rise rapidly, IMA cautions against use of antibiotics

A lingering cough is leading many people to self-medicate and take antibiotics. The IMA has cautioned against this.

ByChetana Belagere

Published Mar 05, 2023 | 10:31 AM Updated Mar 05, 2023 | 10:32 AM

Representational pic. Several people are falling sick due to influenza virus. IMA cautions against use of antibiotics.

With an increase in the number of people falling sick with symptoms of cough, fever, body ache, and sore throat, several are in panic mode and are indiscriminately using antibiotics to protect themselves.

Concerned about this, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has warned people: “As per information from the NCDC, most of the cases are H3N2 influenza virus and it is common to have a seasonal cold or cough during October to February period. People should not use antibiotics unnecessarily.”

Also read: ICMR warns against use of antibiotics for low-grade fever

Self-medication and abuse of antibiotics

Doctors South First spoke to agreed that the influenza surge this time in India was appearing to be more aggressive and protracted.

“Symptoms, especially cough and tiredness, seem to last even up to three weeks. The influenza-related illness usually tends to settle within five to seven days, but this time it is indeed taking longer,” said physician and paediatrician Dr Sanjay G from Bengaluru.

This prolonged illness is leading to several using antibiotics — like azithromycin and amoxiclav — on their own without consulting doctors.

The IMA took to Twitter on Saturday, March, to warn people, and said, “It is common to have a seasonal cold or cough during the October-to-February period because of influenza and other viruses. Give only symptomatic treatment, no need to give antibiotics.”

It added: “People start taking antibiotics like azithromycin and amoxiclav without caring for dose and frequency, and stop when they start feeling better. This can lead to antibiotic resistance, and it is dangerous.”

The IMA also stressed that it was important to diagnose whether the infection was bacterial before antibiotics could be prescribed.

Related: Everyone around you falling sick? Here’s what doctors say

Most abused antibiotics

The IMA warned that several antibiotics were being misused for certain conditions, and microorganisms were developing resistance to them.

This means that when the patient needs the use of antibiotics for some other infections, the medications might not work on the condition and sometimes this can even turn fatal.

The IMA said, “[Around] 70 percent of diarrhoea cases are viral diarrhoea, for which antibiotics are not needed but are being prescribed by doctors. The most misused antibiotics are amoxicillin, norfloxacin, ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, and levofloxacin. These are being used for diarrhoea and for urinary tract infections.”

The IMA explained that the use of azithromycin and ivermectin during Covid-19 has already led to resistance.

Self-regulate, practise respiratory hygiene

The IMA also suggested that people should avoid crowded places, practise good hand and respiratory hygiene, and take vaccination to prevent influenza infections.

The IMA stressed that most of the current cases of infection were being diagnosed as the H3N2 influenza virus and the symptoms were cough, nausea, vomiting, sore throat, fever, body ache, and diarrhoea in some cases.

“The infection usually lasts for about five to seven days. The fever goes away at the end of three days, but the cough persists for up to three weeks,” the IMA stated.

It occurs in people above the age of 50 and below 15. People develop upper respiratory infections along with fever.

Fortis Hospital Internal Medicine Director Dr Sheela Murali Chakravarthy said viruses in this season are usually influenza and cause self-limiting illnesses.

Though pollen allergy is one of the reasons for viral infections, it does not come with fever.

Also, this is chicken pox season and many children are getting it.

Chakravarthy said, “To prevent the spread of the disease, both flu and chicken pox are available and must be taken.”