Srinagar, Mar 13: With spring spike of influenza cases in Kashmir valley, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Monday attributed the surge to lower levels of natural immunity in the population against flu viruses.
“People haven’t been exposed to influenza in the past two flu seasons due to Covid restrictions which has led to lower levels of natural immunity within the population,” said DAK President and influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan.
Dr Hassan said we see influenza cases every year during winter months.
But the last two seasons witnessed negligible flu cases. The decline was because of Covid precautions such as face masking and social distancing.
“Now that people are out without masks, travelling extensively, business has resumed and children are back to schools, flu has made a comeback,” he said.
The DAK President said in typical years a good percentage of the population gets infected with these viruses and builds immunity against the infections.
What we are seeing are a couple of years where we didn’t see infections.
“So more people are susceptible to these viruses that is causing spike in cases in this season,” he said.
Dr Nisar said flu viruses have a tendency to mutate. Small changes keep on happening. And that could be another reason that we have severe and prolonged flu cases in unusual time of this year’s flu season.
He said H3N2 flu virus is not new. It is the commonest seasonal flu virus and is in circulation for the last 55 years.
The 1968 flu pandemic was caused by H3N2. The pandemic was over in two years, but the virus became a seasonal affair, peaks in every winter causing milder illness.
“Though H3N2 virus is dominant, H1N1 popularly called swine flu has been reported in significant number of influenza cases in Kashmir,” he added.
General Secretary DAK Dr Arshad Ali said people who develop flu symptoms like cough, fever, runny nose and sorethroat should isolate themselves till their symptoms resolve.
“Doctors should prescribe antiviral medicines instead of antibiotics to flu patients,” he said.