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Experts Highlight the Need to Protect Against the Rising Influenza Burden in India

Tamil Nadu recorded the second highest number of flu cases in India last year


To address the rise in influenza cases across India, Abbott hosted a roundtable in Chennai on preventive measures to protect against infection


Chennai, March 21, 2023: India is currently witnessing a significant rise in influenza infection across the country. According to the integrated health information platform, India has seen a large number of cases of acute respiratory illness or influenza-like illness from January to March 9th this year, amounting to nearly one million. Over 3000 laboratory-confirmed cases of various influenza subtypes were also reported during this period. Flu cases were also on the rise last year, with a roughly 16-fold increase in India from 2021.

As seasonal influenza poses a public health concern, it is important to take measures to address India’s flu burden. With the aim to raise awareness about influenza prevention, global healthcare leader Abbott hosted a roundtable in Chennai to educate people on how to protect themselves, their families, and the community against infection.

At the roundtable, leading expert Dr. V Ramasubramanian, Senior Consultant Infectious Diseases, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai and Medical Director, Capstone Multispecialty Clinic, Chennai commented, “Tamil Nadu has recorded the second highest number of influenza cases in India last year, and the highest in January 2023. It is important to understand influenza and the preventive measures to protect against this seasonal infection and its complications. With influenza strains evolving every year, the WHO updates vaccine recommendations based on the strain currently in circulation. This makes annual flu shots important for optimal protection, especially as immunity supported by the vaccination can decrease after a year.”

Seasonal influenza, or the flu, is an acute respiratory infection caused by various types of influenza viruses, of which types A (including subtypes H1N1, H3N2 and more) and B cause the most cases during the flu season. When people are affected by the flu, they typically experience mild to severe symptoms, including fever, dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, fatigue, headache or body ache, and a runny nose. Infection can be transmitted from an infected person through the air when they talk, cough, or sneeze. As it is spreads easily, individuals may be at risk of catching the flu from public settings, like schools or workplaces.

Influenza affects people of all ages. However, certain groups including children under 5 years of age, the elderly (above 65 years of age), pregnant women, people with comorbidities (like diabetes, kidney, heart, or liver diseases, asthma) and immunocompromised individuals are at a higher risk of complications. Further, the flu can be burdensome for everyone, resulting in increased doctor visits, reduced work and productivity, and restricted activity. This makes it increasingly important for people to avoid influenza by taking preventive steps to stay healthy.

People can take various steps to prevent the spread of influenza. These include frequent handwashing or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, covering one’s nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, avoiding touching one’s nose, eyes, or mouth, and staying away from people showing symptoms. People who are unwell should also isolate to avoid spreading the infection. Additionally, as the flu is a vaccine-preventable disease, influenza vaccination is one of the most effective preventive strategies to maintain immunity for a long duration.

Dr. Jejoe Karankumar, Director, Medical Affairs, Abbott India said, “Most people think of the flu as similar to a common cold. But flu is different and is considered as a public health concern that can lead to health complications. Due to low awareness about the seriousness of the flu, and misconceptions about the vaccination, it is often overlooked. At Abbott, we are committed to helping people in India stay healthy. We champion the Mothers Against Influenza Initiative and we work with healthcare professionals and associations to ensure we raise awareness on measures people can take to protect against infections such as the flu, so that people can live healthier lives.” Abbott’s 2030 sustainability goals are committed to supporting efforts to address noncommunicable diseases and deliver scalable, integrated solutions to help reduce infectious diseases through their solutions and education programs.

With more people taking the flu vaccine, which has been proven to be safe and effective, it helps promote layered protection so that everyone, especially including at-risk individuals in the community, can live healthier lives. Influenza vaccination can also prevent 70 to 90% of influenza-specific illness among healthy adults.

Flu vaccination lowers the economic burden of the infection on society by reducing hospitalizations and with lower absentee rates at work. It also supports healthy ageing and a healthy workforce, while improving overall life expectancy. Further, it can reduce the burden on health systems and healthcare practitioners.

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