Several people across India have been falling sick for the last two months, presenting flu-like symptoms such as persistent cough and fever. For many, the nameless outbreak didn’t feel like the usual cold symptoms, causing confusion and concerns. Last week, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) scientists identified influenza A subtype H3N2 as a major contributor to the illness.
About half of all inpatients admitted for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI), as well as outpatients being treated for influenza-like illness had influenza A H3N2, according to ICMR. It also added that surveillance data from 15 December until the release of the statement shows a rise in the number of cases. This subtype also appears to cause more hospitalisations than other subtypes.
According to the Indian Medical Association, the symptoms include cough, nausea, vomiting, sore throat, fever, body ache, and diarrhoea. It mostly occurs in people above the age of 50 and below the age of 13 years and air pollution can be a triggering factor. Moreover, people tend to develop upper respiratory infections along with fever.
Among the severe acute respiratory infections, about 92% are suffering from fever, 86% from cough, 27% from breathlessness, 16% wheezing, 16% showing signs of pneumonia, and 6% have seizures. Moreover, 7% of the patients needed ICU care.
The association emphasised that it requires only symptomatic treatment and that antibiotics should not be prescribed.
"Right now, people start taking antibiotics like Azithromycin and Amoxiclav, that too without caring for dosage and frequency and stop it once they start feeling better. This needs to be stopped as it leads to antibiotic resistance. Whenever there is a real need for antibiotics, they will not work due to the resistance," the IMA said in a statement.
The most misused antibiotics are Amoxicillin, Norfloxacin, Oprofloxacin, Ofloxacin and Levofloxacin. These are being used for the treatment of diarrhoea and UTI, it said.
"We have already seen widespread use of Azithromycin and Ivermectin during Covid and this too has led to resistance. It is necessary to diagnose whether the infection is bacterial or not before prescribing antibiotics," it said.
In the light of increasing cases, the ICMR has issued some precautions. If you are symptomatic, be sure to wear masks, avoid crowded places, and cover your mouth while sneezing or coughing. Even if you are not showing any symptoms, you should avoid shaking hands and other greetings that involve contact.