• Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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Health experts call for caution as influenza cases spike  

Common symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. (Representative image: iStock) 

By: Vibhuti Pathak

Health experts are urging the public to beware of symptoms related to the surge of influenza. The symptoms like fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue are some to check and consult a doctor immediately.

As per Dr. Deepal Perera, a Paediatrician at the Lady Ridgeway Children’s Hospital in Colombo, it’s vastly prevalent among children and thus the parents are advised to keep a close watch on their children.

“There are usually two peaks of influenza namely November to February and April to July,” he added.

“This time, we have seen a substantial rise in cases among children and adults as well. The cases have doubled during the last week alone. As of now, the predominant type is influenza A. However, influenza B is also prevalent,” he pointed out.

Influenza is an acute, contagious respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses that circulate in all parts of the world, resulting in a year-round disease burden. Being a tropical country like Sri Lanka, the disease can be seen throughout the year.

However, there are two main peaks when there is a higher number of cases, which are from May to July and from November to January. Depending on the season, there may be different types of influenza causing the illness.

But most people recover from the fever and other influenza-related symptoms within a week without medical attention, severe cases require hospitalisation and some can be fatal. Especially the high-risk group of people above 65 years of age and children below 2 years of age, pregnant women, people with chronic disease, people with respiratory issues, and people undergoing cancer treatment.

The virus is typically transmitted through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, or sneezes. These droplets can then be inhaled by someone nearby or picked up by touching a surface contaminated with the virus (i.e., toys, doorknobs) and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes.

In light of the situation, the expert stressed the importance of seeking prompt medical care if the symptoms persist.

To maintain good health and prevent the spread of illnesses, it is important to frequently wash hands with soap and water and avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth. When coughing or sneezing, cover the nose and mouth with a tissue, handkerchief, or the inner surface of the arm.

It’s crucial to avoid close contact with sick individuals and stay home if feeling unwell. During outbreaks, steer clear of crowded places, consider wearing a face mask in public, and follow public health guidelines diligently.

The Secretary to the Health Ministry had earlier advised the national influenza centre to enhance Influenza-like Illness Surveillance at 20 hospitals including Colombo, Ragama, Kalubowila, Negombo Hospitals, Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children and Infectious Disease Hospital.

Accordingly, samples are directed to the national influenza laboratory daily.

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