Doctors in Uttar Pradesh state capital Lucknow are warning of a spike in cases of flu amidst the monsoon season.
Since the onset of rains, cases have jumped by 600 percent with multiple hospitals reporting increased visitors of individuals with flu in their outpatient departments. At the King George’s Medical University, between fifty and sixty people are admitted with flu each day. Prior to the monsoon, cases numbered at between eight and ten. Similarly, the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital recorded between eight and ten cases before the monsoon; it is now seeing as many as sixty each day. In Balrampur Hospital, up to 100 flu cases are being recorded now, compared to fifteen to twenty cases prior to the monsoon.
“The weather change that triggers the fluctuation in temperature is a main cause of cold and flu during the monsoon season,” says Skymet Weather Services. “The immune system weakens during [the] rainy season [and] becomes vulnerable to cold, cough and flu.”
Flu remains a major public health threat in India. Livemint notes the lack of a national policy to immunise against flu sans Mission Indradhanush. This leaves India especially vulnerable to the prospect of a global flu pandemic, which the World Health Organization considers virtually inevitable. “The world will face another influenza pandemic,” the WHO has said. “The only thing we don’t know is when it will hit and how severe it will be. Global defences are only as effective as the weakest link in any country’s health emergency preparedness and response system.”
India faces numerous woes related to flu, such as zoonotic types including bird flu and swine flu. In the case of avian influenza (bird flu), the H7N9 and H9N2 strains have recently been listed among potential causes of India’s next epidemic. Swine flu, meanwhile, caused 1,895 deaths and 31,000 cases during a 2015 outbreak and is a continued public health menace: more than 160 deaths were reported this year in January alone. By late February, the death toll stood at 377.
Vigilance against flu is vital, especially for vulnerable populations who are already immunocompromised. Scaling up vaccination efforts and strengthening monitoring systems are vital, especially during times when influenza is more prevalent such as during the monsoon season.