H3N2 Virus: Puducherry shuts down schools from March 16

Decision was taken to curb spread of virus; Doctors call for annual flu vaccination

NEW DELHI | Updated: 15 March, 2023 5:33 pm IST
The decision to shut down schools comes after pleas from parents and political parties (Photo only for representative purpose)

In an effort to contain the rising cases of the H3N2 influenza virus, Puducherry has decided to shut down schools from March 16 to 26.

Announcing the move on Wednesday, March 15, Puducherry Home and Education minister A Nammasivayam said that the schools will be closed for the primary to class 8 students.

The measure to close down the schools came after the union territory had seen a surge in influenza cases. Officially, the union territory has so far reported 79 cases. The union territory has reported no deaths due to viral influenza so far.

Speaking to The New Indian, Dr CMA Belliappa, Consultant Medical Director, Practo, said, “We have seen an increase in the number of footfalls for face-to-face consultations; however, most of these have been managed symptomatically, hospital admission has remained minimal and most people have made a rapid recovery. Some patients continue to have persistent cough and fatigue, which require longer treatment.”

Talking about the importance of the annual flu vaccination, Dr Belliappa said, “It is extremely important to take the annual flu vaccination, ideally before September every year. Masking up in crowded areas, following hand hygiene and respiratory etiquettes will go a long way in preventing the spread of H3N2 or any future viruses.”

“We have survived COVID-19, and I am sure, we will manage and survive H3N2 too,” he added.

Explaining the reason for the rise in influenza cases, Dr Rajesh Bharadwaj, ENT specialist, said, “The cases of flu have actually been on the rise since. The primary reason for the spike is due to lowered immunity.”

“We had far less exposure to the winter virus during the last two winters due to COVID-19. Another reason for the spike is the lack of adequate flu vaccination and the inability to stay away from public places, which act as mediums to super-spread the virus,” Dr Bharadwaj said.

According to Practo Insight, there has been a 29 per cent increase in flu-related online consultations since January.

The Union Health Ministry issued a letter to states and union territories to keep an eye on the situation regarding the spike in influenza cases, hospital preparedness and community awareness.

“Advisory issued to States to be on the alert and closely monitor the situation. Government of India is working with States & extending support for public health measures to address the situation,” Union Health minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya tweeted.

As per government data, a total of 3,038 laboratory confirmed cases of various subtypes of influenza, including H3N2, have been reported by the states until March 9. This includes 1,245 cases in January, 1,307 in February and 486 in March (till March 9).

The Union Health ministry is also strictly monitoring the overall situation. However, the ministry believes that cases will come down by the end of March.

Mostly, children were affected by the H3N2 virus and respiratory symptoms is one of the most common symptoms.

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