'This year there is a sharp spike in fever cases, and it seems to be more than the pre-COVID-19 levels.'
After battling with COVID-19 fever for the last two years, most Indian cities are now reeling under a bout of fever cases caused by dengue, malaria, swine flu among others.
"Of all respiratory illnesses that we are seeing in patients now, about 20 per cent are non-COVID-19 viral infections," says Dr Khusrav Bajan, consultant physician, P D Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai.
As such the city has seen a 2-3 fold jump in swine flu cases in the last one month, doctors estimate.
Dr Bajan says that of the hospitalised cases with fever now, roughly 20 per cent are non-COVID-19 viral infections, around 5-10 per cent cases are of typhoid, another 5-10 per cent cases are of malaria, while dengue fever cases account for nearly 20-30 per cent of hospital admissions (with fever).
Doctors say that bouts of dengue and malaria -- vector borne diseases -- are expected after the monsoon.
However, this season, swine flu cases have hit the country sooner than expected, and there seems to be a steady and sharp rise.
In August alone, Mumbai reported close to 200 swine flu cases, and hospitals estimate that number has at least doubled in September.
Tamil Nadu has reported a spike in the number of cases with as many as 5,000 people getting admitted to hospitals due to high fever.
Though state Health Minister Ma Subramanian called it 'seasonal', he also instructed parents to not send kids having fever to schools.
The rise in H1N1 cases is also a concern for the state as more than 1,000 cases were reported from January till now.
The rise in fever cases are being reported at a time when Covid cases are also being reported on a daily basis.
On September 22, around 522 cases were reported in the state.
Subramaniam added that around 5,000 cases of admissions for fever used to be normal pre-Covid and there was a dip in cases during the last two years as people followed strict Covid protocols.
"For the last two years, common infections were not there, and children had developed an 'immune debt'. That is, low relative immune protection against common infections. So, the same child gets multiple infections over a period. It will take another few months, till they develop relative immunity," says Dr J Rajkumar, consultant - paediatric infectious diseases, Gleneagles Global Health City in Chennai.
Dr Monalisa Sahu, consultant, infectious diseases, Yashoda Hospitals in Hyderabad, says they have seen a two to two-and-a-half times rise in fever cases in the last few weeks, and vulnerable patients are landing up in the ICUs.
Dr Sahu says these cases were not being reported much during the last two years of the pandemic, and thus this year we can see a sharp rise.
"People were wearing masks or following hand-hygiene for COVID-19, so that helped ward off other infections too. So, this year there is a sharp spike in fever cases, and it seems to be more than the pre-COVID-19 levels," she adds.
"Compared to the same time last year, we are seeing a 50 per cent spike in the number of cases in Tamil Nadu. We are seeing a higher rate of respiratory infections among kids below the age of 5 years and elderly people above 65 years. Among children, respiratory infections are on a rise too," says Dr Sivaraj P, senior consultant, internal medicine, MGM Healthcare in Chennai.
Dr Manoj Sharma, senior consultant internal medicine, Fortis Hospital Vasant Kunj in New Delhi, points out that during COVID-19, the focus was on detecting and treating the disease.
"Even during COVID-19, 10-15 per cent cases had additional viral infections along with COVID-19. But those were reported as COVID-19 cases," he explains.
Apart from dengue, malaria and swine flu, some cities like Delhi, Mumbai are also witnessing cases of leptospirosis and gastroenteritis fevers.
*Kindly note the image has been posted only for representational purposes.
Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com