It might be time to mask up. At a time when H3N2 influenza virus is spreading with Covid-like symptoms, doctors suggest making surveillance and covid-appropriate behaviour mandatory, and stressed on the need to step up testing, as well as identifying genomic surveillance.
“Symptomatic people should self-isolate themselves, irrespective of whether it is Covid or any other flu,” says Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, Group Medical Director at Max Healthcare. “People should wear masks in crowded places. Social distancing, regular sanitisation and following coughing and sneezing etiquettes go a long way. Also, those who have not yet taken their third dose of Covid vaccine should do that.”
With the rapid rise in Covid and influenza cases, doctors are worried about a huge patient surge. They advocate pro-active surveillance at the earliest. Last year was challenging for medical practitioners who treated Covid patients. Many lost their lives.
Dr Milan Dhariwal from North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Darjeeling, suggests that “The government must declare mandatory use of masks in hospitals, airports, railway stations and other crowded places, along with rapid Covid test at international airports.”
Dr Minesh Mehta, senior physician and critical care specialist at Shalby Multi-speciality Hospitals, Ahmedabad, stresses on “increasing the number of hospital beds, ensuring adequate supplies of PPE, intensifying testing and contact-tracing efforts.” He also advocates providing financial and mental health support to healthcare professionals, and prioritising distribution of vaccines to high-risk populations.”
Another precautionary step that experts suggest is involving fewer people at weddings and congregations. Last year, several states had restricted the number of wedding guests to 20, or at the most 100.
The worry is more this year, because till last year, it was only Covid, but today, we have H3N2 and swine flu hitting people. Covid is also returning with several variants. "It's time to accept the Covid-appropriate behaviour as almost a permanent way of life, including social distancing, masking, washing hands and maintaining good civic behaviour,” says Dr Tarun Sahni, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals.
He adds, “Surveillance at public places epidemiologically on a random basis can help to get an idea how the disease and strains are spreading.”