Amid the considerable increase in cases of respiratory diseases in recent weeks in several Brazilian states, including Minas Gerais, the notification of diagnoses related to influenza A/ H3N2 has attracted the attention of many people. That’s because influenza A viruses are common but seasonal – they occur in the winter months.
Data released by the State Department of Health (SES-MG), on December 23, show that 147 cases of H3N2 were diagnosed through samples collected by the Ezequiel Dias Foundation (Funed), in addition to a 36% increase in care. respiratory diseases only in the capital of Minas Gerais.
“Isolation for seven days, hand hygiene and use of masks, as well as all the precautions we are taking to protect ourselves from covid-19, continue to apply to other respiratory diseases, such as influenza”, explains the director of assistance at Fundação Hospitalar from the State of Minas Gerais (Fhemig), Lucineia Carvalhais, who is also an infectious disease physician.
According to Lucineia, influenza viruses are highly contagious and can affect adults and children; the cases do not usually evolve to serious conditions, but add to the comorbidities existing in patients and, therefore, attention must be redoubled. Due to the greatest risk, there are attention groups: patients at the extremes of age (children in early childhood and the elderly), as well as pregnant women and women who have just given birth.
The director recalls that it is necessary to raise awareness with regard to the entries of visitors and companions in hospitals and other health facilities, to prevent transmission to vulnerable patients. If the person has symptoms, it is best to avoid contact. The rule also applies to health professionals, so that they maintain care in times of pandemic, even with advanced vaccination in the population.
The symptoms are those known from the flu: cough, fever (not always), sore throat, runny nose and myalgia (muscle pain). Treatment can be done with antipyretics (in case of fever) and common analgesics, in addition to rest.
Lucineia also observes that the flu vaccine, which appears in the health calendar, is updated every year by the World Health Organization (WHO), which studies the genetic variations of the viruses and their current incidence. Influenza A/ H3N2, for example, was detected for the first time in 1968, in Hong Kong, and has been part of the vaccine for some years, following these viral mutations, including the one made available at health centers in the last campaign, this year .
“The problem is that we focused on covid-19. People have been vaccinated for this disease and not vaccinated against the flu. Furthermore, at the time when influenza would normally spread (winter), we were at home protecting ourselves from the pandemic – which prevented the virus from circulating in those months. With the increase in circulation on the streets, in social interactions in schools and at work, the virus was delayed, starting a new cycle that will end up coinciding with the next one. In other words, there won’t be a break in the next six months”, explains the doctor.
Even though most cases are not serious, it is good to be aware of symptoms, which can progress to hospital admissions. Seeking medical advice is still the best way to avoid complications and ensure a good recovery.
*With information from Agência Minas