Disease control centre asks for use of WHO-recommended vaccine as flu cases rise

Disease control centre asks for use of WHO-recommended vaccine as flu cases rise

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  • January 22, 2024
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New Delhi: In response to a rise in influenza infections in the country, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has recommended the prudent use of the Southern Hemisphere’s 2024 quadrivalent influenza vaccine, as per an official notice.

An NCDC report highlighted the presence of A(H1N1) pdm09, A(H3N2), and Type B Victoria lineage strains in India. These flu viruses in India are similar to the ones found worldwide and are the same types that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends vaccines for, specifically the Southern Hemisphere 2024.

According to data from the ministry of health and family welfare, India reported 5,350 H1N1 (swine flu) cases and 101 deaths until the end of October last year. Tamil Nadu recorded the highest number of H1N1 cases at 1,995, followed by Maharashtra with 1,125 cases and Kerala with 909. However, Kerala had the highest death toll at 53, followed by Maharashtra with 25 fatalities. In 2022, there were 13,202 H1N1 cases and 410 deaths, as per NCDC data.

Given the current situation, it’s advisable to use the Southern Hemisphere’s 2024 quadrivalent vaccine in the upcoming influenza season. In the event that this vaccine is unavailable, the latest available quadrivalent influenza vaccine should be procured, the notice said.

Flu vaccines are typically divided into two types: for the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere. The WHO recommends vaccine compositions biannually in February for the Northern Hemisphere and September for the Southern Hemisphere. The Northern Hemisphere vaccine is typically available in February, while the Southern Hemisphere vaccine is provided from September.

“Northern Hemisphere vaccines are usually not available easily. In those circumstances it is advisable to use Southern Hemisphere vaccines,” said a senior official from NCDC.

India monitors flu cases through a network of labs and the WHO’s National Influenza Centre housed at ICMR-National Institute of Virology, Pune. This network has been active since July 2021 and involves 30 sites across the country.

These labs have found that current recommended flu medications are effective against the types of flu viruses they have tested.

Suranjit Chatterjee, a senior doctor at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, noted an increase in H1N1 flu cases recently. He advised people with cough and cold symptoms to get tested for both flu and COVID-19, as there has been an increase in chest infections and hospital admissions.

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Published: 22 Jan 2024, 07:11 PM IST

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