Owing to climate change, rain or shine, it’s flu time

Chennai: Until a few years ago, flu was commonly termed as a condition associated with the monsoon; however, with climate change, experts raise concern over influenza becoming an epidemic all round the year.

According to statistics released by the National Centre for Disease Control, Tamilnadu, there were a total of 344 incidences and two deaths, with the State occupying the ninth place in the country, as on 30 March from the beginning of the year.

The numbers indicate the intensity and prove that the infection is becoming prevalent.

Shedding light on it, Loyola College Entomology Research Institute director, Fr S Ignacimuthu, said, “Organisms constantly evolve with different type of antigens over time. Subtle analysis indicates that with climate change, even the antigen of microorganisms get acclimatised to it. Humans become prone to attack if immunity is low.”

He strongly articulated that the strain can be effectively contained if invested on vaccination.

Although several viruses cause problems, healthcare experts are particularly worried about influenza strain which has become epidemic and has impact all over the world.

Speaking about flu intensity, Sabari Child Care Clinic and Centre For Development paediatric intensivist, neonatologist and paediatric neurologist, Dr A Somasundaram, said, “Previously, it was a seasonal flu, but now it is year-around. Owing to its prevalence, global data shows that lakhs and lakhs of people succumb to it. Though it causes just flu, around 5 to 10 per cent of the detected cases reportedly die at some point of time.”

He further states that Influenza virus is known for undergoing rapid changes in its antigen and terms that the shift is common. “Due to the phenomenon, the efficacy of the vaccination is put under litmus test and has to be updated every year after analysing the modification of the antigen.”

Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine director, Dr K Kolandaisamy, stated that flu is under control in our country and usually is a growing concern in western India.

“Diagnosis is done even if it is ‘A’ (mild) category flu, which is why there are so many cases; previously the test was performed for ‘C’ (severe) category. However, the statistics has been ‘all-time-low’ in the history,” justified Kolandaisamy.

He states that diseases occurring during seasons have become less and no longer are the disease-causing organisms controlled by climate, and defended that change of antigen does not make a dent.

“Immunisation is provided to experts involved in the critical care unit, as per Government of India protocol. However, vaccination is not an effective strategy for containing flu as it is short-term unlike polio, tetanus and measles and we do not do large-scale community immunisation,” he explained, and emphasised on washing hands and maintaining a clean environment to be away from infections.

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CLEAN AND HEALTHY

Though the condition is becoming quite common, Madras Medical College Department of General Medicine, Prof Dr Raghunandanan, feels that it is not a serious problem to worry about.

Fever, running nose, sore throat, headache and vomitting are the signs with which flu can be identified. Pregnant women, people with chronic kidney disease, diabetes and obesity are high-risk population.

Investigation is done and intensive medication provided as per WHO guidelines when it is a ‘C’ Category patient.

The suggested way to keep infections at bay is behavioural change by maintaining cleanliness and hygiene, he said.

Bhavani Prabhakar