With Covid-19 cases seeing a slight uptick, coupled with an increased number of people falling sick with the flu in Karnataka, the state Health Minister held a high-level meeting on Monday, 6 March, along with experts from the Technical Advisory Committee.
According to the statistics from the Health Department, the state — in the last two months (January to March) — has reported 20 cases of H1N1, 26 cases of H3N2, 10 cases of Influenza B, and 69 cases of Adenovirus.
“There is no reason for panic, but we are closely monitoring the situation. There has been a slight uptick in Covid-19 cases in the last few days. The Union Health Ministry has issued a caution regarding the H3N2 variant of influenza too. A public health advisory will be issued,” said the D Randeep, the state Health & Family Welfare Commissioner.
ಇಂದಿನಿಂದ ಆಸ್ಪತ್ರೆಗಳ ವೈದ್ಯರು ಹಾಗೂ ಸಿಬ್ಬಂದಿ ವರ್ಗದವರಿಗೆ ಮಾಸ್ಕ್ ಕಡ್ಡಾಯಗೊಳಿಸಲಾಗಿದ್ದು, H3N2 ಸೋಂಕು ಹರಡುವಿಕೆಯ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ನಿಗಾ ವಹಿಸಲಾಗಿದೆ.
ಮಕ್ಕಳು, ಹಿರಿಯ ನಾಗರಿಕರು ಹಾಗೂ ಗರ್ಭಿಣಿಯರು H3N2 ವೈರಸ್ ಸೋಂಕಿನಿಂದ ರಕ್ಷಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಜನಸಂದಣಿಯಿಂದ ದೂರವಿರಬೇಕು ಹಾಗೂ ನೈರ್ಮಲ್ಯ ಕಾಪಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಬೇಕಾಗಿ ಮನವಿ ಮಾಡುತ್ತೇನೆ.
— Dr Sudhakar K (@mla_sudhakar) March 6, 2023
Masks compulsory for healthcare workers
Stressing that there is no reason to panic, Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar, after the meeting, nonetheless ordered that all healthcare staff in hospitals should wear masks compulsorily.
Several healthcare workers and doctors have recently fallen ill with influenza-like symptoms, especially lingering cough.
Appreciating the order, renowned pulmonologist and Head of the Department of Sleep Medicine at Bengaluru’s Manipal Hospital, Dr Satyanarayana Mysore, told South First that “masking up will help in preventing the infection. It is important to mask up. It is a shield not just for Covid-19 infection, but any respiratory viruses”.
Vaccination for healthcare workers
The state government has also decided to procure influenza vaccines to vaccinate healthcare workers.
Till 2019, the vaccines were being given free of cost to all healthcare workers, every year. After the Covid pandemic hit, this was stopped and, now, it will be resumed in all 31 districts, the Health Minister told reporters after the meeting.
“Influenza vaccination is given every year and all healthcare workers are instructed to get it. For specific doctors and staff, including those working in the ICU, vaccines will be given by the government,” said Dr Sudhakar.
Dr Mysore added that the flu vaccine is usually recommend around July and August as that is when an increase in cases is seen — August to December. However, this year, there has been an increase in infections from January onwards.
While it is recommended that everyone take an influenza vaccine once a year, those susceptible, like the elderly, and patients with asthma, COPD, airway diseases, bronchiectasis, and immune deficiency, must definitely take the vaccine, advised the doctor.
In a previous interaction with South First, renowned microbiologist from CMC Vellore, Dr Gagandeep Kang, said, “Vaccines are preventive, but there are also antivirals like Tamiflu. Most recover with no treatment. Elderly and those with comorbidities can develop secondary bacterial infections.”
Testing for influenza
The Health Minister also said that the central government, in its guidelines, has set a target of 25 tests per week and added that the state government is screening 25 cases of severe acute respiratory infections (SARIs) and influenza-like illnesses (ILIs) in Victoria Hospital and Vanivilas Hospitals to keep track of the variants.
A committee has been formed to cap the price of testing for this new infection, he added. “We are taking measures to ensure that testing is available at low rates. The fee for the examination will be fixed after the report is received from the committee,” said Dr Sudhakar.
He added that the infection can be seen in children under 15 years of age and in senior citizens. Pregnant women are also more likely to get infected.
He said that the spread of infection can be prevented through measures such as cleanliness, avoiding crowds, and following hand hygiene — much like Covid protocols.
Dr Sudhakar also shared other observations. He said that this infection will clear up within 2 to 5 days and noted that people who had Covid earlier, seem to have more cough when infected.
‘Don’t take antibiotics unnecessarily’
The medical experts South First spoke to also warned against self-medication and the use of antibiotics.
“Many are taking antibiotics on their own. it is not right to take medicines without the doctor’s advice and to take antibiotics unnecessarily. Medicines need to be given based on the symptoms,” said Dr MK Sudarshan, Chairperson of the Technical Advisory Committee.
The Health Minister added that there is no shortage of medicine and necessary medicines are stocked.
Meanwhile, warning that temperatures are already soaring in February, even before the start of summer, the minister added that this could also increase the problem.
He said that experts have recommended avoiding sun exposure between 11 am and 3 pm, as well as staying hydrated with at least 2-3 liters of water, buttermilk, fresh water, and fruit juices.