After the dengue outbreak comes influenza. The seasonal flu marked by high fever and a hacking cough has overtaken dengue in the National Capital Region.
Over the past week, more people are visiting fever clinics with symptoms of high grade fever, cold, cough and painful throat. A sore throat and hacking cough, which may last for two weeks after fever gets over, differentiates influenza from dengue.
“With the mercury dropping, seasonal flu infections have started going up and this will last through winter,” said Dr Atul Gogia, senior consultant, department of medicine, Ganga Ram Hospital.
Most cases of flu do not need hospital care and can be treated symptomatically. The dengue scare, however, persists and most people insist on getting tested for the mosquito-borne disease.
Ritwika Nath, 28, who works with a multinational company, suspected she had dengue when she started running high fever for two days. “I started feeling sick at work on Monday and by the time I was home, I was running 103 degrees fever that didn’t respond to paracetamol,” says the Uttam Nagar resident.
“The high fever continued on Tuesday and Wednesday, which scared me. The doctor diagnosed it as seasonal flu but I still got a dengue test done, which was negative,” she said.
Dr Srikant Sharma, senior consultant, department of internal medicine at Moolchand Hospital, says, “People start panicking the moment they get high fever. We do clinically assess them to rule out dengue, considering it is also a viral disease and there are certain common symptoms.
The common differentiating factor is that in most dengue cases the upper respiratory tract is not affected, say doctors.
“A sore throat, cold and cough symptoms are usually not seen in dengue patients. Dengue causes extreme head and body ache, with nausea. We don’t ask all to get tested but only those with severe symptoms or people with underlying medical condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, children and the elderly,” said Dr Gogia.
Flu viruses travel through the air in droplets when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes or talks. One can inhale the droplets directly, or can pick up the germs from objects like door knobs, computer keyboard, table top, etc., that are eventually transferred when the person touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
Seasonal influenza is a self-limiting disease that has only symptomatic treatment -- paracetamol to reduce fever and increased fluid intake to avoid dehydration due to high fever. But doctors recommend high risk people to see a specialist if symptoms appear.
Children, people above 65 years of age, and those with low immunity can take a flu vaccine shot before monsoon sets in.