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ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka health officials are warning the public against a suspected sub variant of the influenza virus that is spreading in the country amid a spike in dengue, and ire asking that flu vaccines be given to pregnant women.

Suspected case of the diseases has risen sharply in the last two months.

“Many has fallen ill in the past two month and indicates high fever which is the main symptom,” Consultant physician at Castle street hospital, Nandana Dikmadugoda told reporters.

“The symptoms that has been observed so far, shows that this virus cause problem mainly to the respiratory system.

“Most the patients give similar symptoms such as cough, swollen glands, pain in the ear etc. We have not identified the exact virus that is spreading but we believe it to be a sub variant of the Influenza virus.”

Read more about influenza viruses here

Influenza is a virus which can spread from airborne droplets like Covid 19, from the coughs or sneezes of someone who has the flu. It can also spread when a person touches an object with the virus on it, and then touch the mouth, nose, or eyes.

“Even if people recover from this, they will experience a long lasting cough,” Dikmadugoda said.

“This is because the virus causes the airways in the lungs to shrink making it hard for the patient to breath.”

Pregnant women and older people should get the medical attention because it can be severe if untreated, he said.

In Western countries, a vaccine is being given seasonally, by researching the trends of viruses, however currently there is no policy in Sri Lanka for seasonal vaccinations for any viruses.

“The influenza virus evolves and we do not do any sequencing test for Influenza in Sri Lanka,” Dikmadugoda said.

“The variant we have has changed and that is why it is spreading fast. In other developed countries, they give vaccines yearly by predicting the new variants.

“But we do not do that. If we can give the influenza virus for pregnant and old people with non communicable diseases, it can act as a protection barrier because it covers many variants of the virus”.

If individuals experience fever and other symptoms for more than two days, they should seek medical help and not continue with self-medication like Aspirin, pain killers or use antibiotics as there is Dengue which is also spreading.

“Sri Lanka is also experiencing a rising of Covid, Dengue and Leptospirosis patients,” Dikmadugoda said.

“Using Aspirin, pain killers, steroids or any other antibiotics without medical advice can lead to Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, and it will be difficult to treat in Covid and Leptospirosis as well”.

Sri Lanka has recorded 76,467 dengue patients in 2022, compared to 36,139 in 2021, Dengue Control Unit data showed.

In the first week of 2023 only, health officials have identified 2,142 Dengue patients.

According to Epidemiology Data, in the First 14 days of January 2023, 76 Covid patients have been Identified along with 74 Leptospirosis patients . (Colombo/ Jan 15/2023)

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