Experts have warned that there could be an outbreak of swine flu and other viral illnesses in New Delhi, flagging disruptions in flu vaccination for the last two years owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With Delhi witnessing an increase in swine flu cases, they have also advised people to follow the mask mandate and adhere to social distancing norms.
Dr Vishakh Varma, senior consultant and HoD, Critical Care Medicine at Aakash Healthcare, said since the symptoms of swine flu are quite similar to the common cold, people often don't take it seriously in the initial stages until it becomes critical.
"A swine flu patient usually goes through burning / sore throat, nose and abdominal pain and cough. There is an additional symptom of shortness of breath," he added.
He stressed that it's imperative to maintain good hydration, hand hygiene, cough hygiene (cough and sneezing in disposable tissue), and suitable disposal of this infected waste material.
Dr Manoj Goel, director, Pulmonology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, said due to the pandemic, the flu vaccination was disrupted which could be responsible for an increase in swine flu cases.
"There could be a swine flu outbreak due to the situation," he said.
But how does one distinguish between the symptoms of COVID and swine flu?
Explaining the difference between the two infections, he said, "In COVID, the problem of respiratory distress arises in the second week and in the first week, patients have symptoms like fever, cough, etc but in the case of swine flu, shortness of breath, respiratory distress will start right from the first week."
He asserted that masking up and following social distancing norms will help guard one against swine flu.
His colleague, Dr Vikas Maurya, director and HOD, Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh, also added that swine flu cases are increasing and those patients are also requiring hospitalisation.
This, he said, comes amid a slight increase in number of COVID-19 patients needing hospitalisation.
Varma recommended that people should get themselves vaccinated with a quadriplegic flu vaccine shot before the peak of the season and for health care / high-risk cases.
"Our hospital has encountered a case of swine flu, where the patient had a fever, cough and cold for three days. He even developed breathing difficulties a couple of hours before getting admitted to the hospital. The patient is also a diabetic and on maintenance dialysis due to his CKD," he said.
Dr Jugal Kishore, head of community medicine, Safdarjung Hospital, said, "In August-September, we see a spike in cases and every two-three years, there is a cycle when such spikes happen.
"The reasons might be decline in immunity or some new variant emerging. Although there is vaccination, but no one goes for it. People should get vaccinated. This swine flu season could continue till November-December," he said.
He advised that people should get vaccinated in April and May.