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Beware of seasonal influenza !

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13 December 2019 11:58 am - 2     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Having fever, cough and a runny nose due to wet weather? Then you are possibly experiencing a seasonal influenza; also known as the viral flu. While it is a common occurrence, virologists observe this time of the year as a peak season for influenza activity. However, high risk groups need to take extra care during this period. With that in mind the Mirror Health Capsule spoke to Dr. Jude Jayamaha, Consultant Medical Virologist at the National Influenza Centre affiliated to the Department of Virology at the Medical Research Institute. 

 

 

What is influenza?
According to Dr. Jayamaha, influenza is present as flu with fever, runny nose and headache. “Therefore we vaguely call it the viral flu. But it could be caused by other viruses as well. Influenza is categorised as A and B and Influenza A could be further categorised as H1N1 and H3N2. But irrespective of the type the disease is the same.” The influenza A and B viruses that routinely spread in people are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year. 


The influenza mainly spreads from person to person mainly by droplets made during coughing, sneezing or talking. These droplets can land in the noses or mouths of people who are nearby or possible be inhaled into the lungs.  People with flu are most contagious during the first three to four days after the illness begins. 

 

Symptoms
Unlike a common cold, the flu typically occurs with a sudden onset of symptoms. Common signs of an influenza infection include:
Coughing
Runny or stuffy nose
Sneezing
Sore throat
Fever
Headache
Fatigue
Chills
Body aches

 


Precautionary steps
“When it comes to taking precautions, pregnant women shouldn’t go to crowded places,” opined Dr. Jayamaha. “If you have any of the symptoms related to the flu you should adhere to the cough etiquette. Sneezing happens in 1-2 seconds. So you can’t reach out to your handkerchief during a matter of seconds. Therefore you could flex your elbow and cover the nose or use the side of your arm. When it comes to adolescents and young adults they tend to go for revision classes or have sports practices after school. But if you’re having flu symptoms it’s better to avoid these extracurricular activities and take adequate bed rest. It is also important to note that those suffering from these symptoms should only take paracetamol. They shouldn’t take aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) since there could be rare complications in the liver that could be accentuated by taking these drugs. 

 


High risk groups
Dr. Jayamaha further said that children less than two years of age and those more than 65 years of age are at risk of contracting influenza. “But then again elderly  group depend upon the country as well. In addition to that pregnant women, people with long-term medical conditions, chronic lung infections, neurological conditions and diabetes mellitus too are included into the high risk category. However if you’re a pregnant woman you need to present yourself to a qualified medical practitioner in the first day or two of the illness.”

 


Stay hydrated
“When there’s virus flu it is often recommended to stay hydrated,” he added. “Therefore have plenty of fluids and it is also advisable to take meals as frequently as possible if you have an appetite. You can consume anything and there are no restrictions as such. However there is an incubation period and the illness would last only between two to six days. But some people may have long convalesces. Therefore all healthy people could recover by themselves, but would require some supportive care.”

 


Antiviral therapy
Antiviral agents may be prescribed as treatment to potentially shorten the duration and decrease the severity of influenza infection. However Dr. Jayamaha opined that antiviral therapy is recommended only for patients who might develop complications.

 


Seasonal observations
He also added that MRI’s National Influenza Centre is conducting an active surveillance with the collaboration of Epidemiology Unit of Ministry of Health, collecting samples from designated hospitals and has observed two distinctive patterns of influenza activity in the country in an year.  “Since we are a little above the equator we have influenza throughout the year with a bi-modal pattern. Therefore, the first peak is observed from November, December to January while the second peak is observed from April, June to July. This coincides with the monsoons. During this period one has to be extra cautious as influenza activity is high.”


In conclusion, Dr. Jayamaha said that influenza is a self-limiting disease. “A majority of patients will recover but high risk groups could have pneumonia and multi-organ failure. If you are ill get adequate rest and adhere to personal hygiene.”


  Comments - 2

  • S.Sangaralingham Friday, 20 December 2019 05:08 AM

    Viral infections are many. Influenza is a viral disease often with different strain of virus. Unfortunates often develop brain heart nervous system involvement if your immune system is weak the young the old other with lung disease diabetic on medications for cancer the outcome may be bad

    Jude Jayamaha Friday, 20 December 2019 03:30 PM

    true


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