Influenza A infection may hit population severely, cases being reported in region

By Muhammad Qasim
February 24, 2024

Islamabad: Influenza A infection that is more serious than the common cold may hit the population severely in this region of the country as the healthcare facilities have been receiving patients with the signs and symptoms of influenza A H1N1 and influenza A H3N2.

A woman can be seen sneezing. — Pexels

The concerned government authorities including the district health departments and the public sector hospitals in the region, however, have not been giving due attention to the problem, nor preparing the data regarding the number of patients and suspects of the disease being reported in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

Many health experts say that it is the most appropriate time for the high risk population including elderly, pregnant women, patients with heart and lung disease and diabetics to take precautionary measures to safeguard them from influenza A infection that can cause major outbreaks and severe disease.

Data collected by ‘The News’ has revealed that both the private and the public sector healthcare facilities are receiving a good number of patients with influenza A infection while many are being suspected to have contracted influenza A H3N2 virus. It is important that seasonal ‘influenza A’ disease appears in winter every year in the months of December to February. It may assume the epidemic forms and cause considerable morbidity and mortality.

Experts say that by creating awareness among the public about various aspects of influenza A infection, its spread can be controlled and losses can be minimized. Influenza A virus causes the flu, a highly contagious respiratory illness. Different subtypes or strains of influenza A cause outbreaks and serious illnesses.

Studies reveal that influenza A infection can cause serious complications including pneumonia, breathing problems and even death particularly in the high risk groups. The disease has caused considerable morbidity and mortality in the last two decades or so. It was the influenza A H1N1 that had affected thousands of people globally in 2009. The same infection, now known as seasonal flu, has become a regular feature appearing each year for the last many years since 2011 in Pakistan and it has claimed hundreds of lives in the past years.

Influenza A infection may cause mild, moderate or severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Elderly people aged 65 years or above, pregnant women, younger children of less than two years of age, and people with certain health conditions, are at higher risk of serious flu complications.

It is important that nearly 90 per cent of all influenza A patients who do not fall in the high risk category recover well without any medical intervention. The best prevention is to follow the respiratory protocols and cover face with tissue paper while sneezing or coughing to prevent others from the infection. A patient should properly dispose of the infected or used tissues and wash hands frequently.

Experts have repeatedly expressed to ‘The News’ that influenza viruses are constantly changing themselves for their best survival and the H1N1 infection that has become less virulent in the past few years is still circulating and is capable of causing high mortality in a segment of population.

The most common symptoms of influenza A infection include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, feeling tired and weak, sneezing, sore throat and cough while a child patient may have abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting as well.

It is, however, important to mention that the virus that causes covid-19 is different from the virus that causes influenza though influenza A virus also spreads through droplets from the nose or throat of an infected person, normally though coughing and sneezing.