Amid a rise in cases of cough and fever linked to Influenza subtype A H3N2, the government has announced several steps to support states in the management of influenza cases, including H3N2. A total of 1,161 cases of A H3N2 have been reported in the country from January 1, 2023, to March 20, 2023, minister of state (MoS) in the health & family welfare ministry, Bharti Pravin Pawar, told Parliament.

"As part of ILI/SARI surveillance conducted by ICMR, 50% of the total hospitals admitted cases due to respiratory infection are due to H3N2 Influenza in last two months and most of these cases presented with symptoms of cough and fever," the minister said.

Many states in the country have reported cases of A H3N2 virus, including Delhi, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Odisha, Karnataka, and Haryana. The maximum cases were reported in Delhi at 370, followed by Rajasthan at 180 and Karnataka at 134.

The health ministry has issued an advisory to states/UTs to closely follow the trend of influenza-like illness or severe acute respiratory infections in respective areas, monitor the proportion of SARI cases, among all ILI& SARI cases, and refer a sufficient number of samples for testing for influenza, SARS-CoV-2, etc.

The government has also asked officials in states and UTs to raise community awareness regarding adherence to respiratory and hand hygiene, promoting early reporting of symptoms, and limiting contact, if suffering from respiratory illness. They will also disseminate technical guidelines for seasonal influenza, and COVID-19, and implement ‘operational guidelines for revised surveillance strategy in the context of COVID-19’.

What is Influenza A (H3N2) virus?

H3N2 is a viral respiratory infection and antibiotics have no role in the treatment of a viral infection, the health ministry says. “Sometimes in respiratory infections, a bacterial infection may co-occur along with a viral infection, and therefore physicians may prescribe an antibiotic to take care of secondary bacterial infections.”

An acute respiratory infection, seasonal influenza is caused by influenza viruses, which circulate in all parts of the world, and the cases are seen to increase during certain months globally. India, every year, witnesses two peaks of seasonal influenza: one from Jan to March and the other in the post-monsoon season. The cases arising from seasonal influenza are expected to decline from March end, say experts.

Oseltamivir is the drug recommended by WHO. The drug is made available through the public health system free of cost. The government has allowed the sale of Oseltamivir under Schedule H1 of the Drug and Cosmetic Act in February 2017 for wider accessibility and availability. Adequate logistics are available in the states.

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