Amidst a rise of respiratory illness including pneumonia cases in children in China and a directive by the Union government to review preparedness in the country the director of Delhi’s Lady Harding Hospital has said that there is no outbreak of H9N2 virus reported in India.
The Union Health Ministry recently said that it is closely monitoring the reported outbreak of H9N2 cases and clusters of respiratory illness in children.
Dr Subhash Giri, Director of Lady Hardinge Hospital said, “At present, in China, the children who are born during COVID and the children who are not exposed to the other viruses except COVID, have lower immunity to other routine viruses that cause the Upper Respiratory Infection (URI). It includes the immunity for influenza as well, and when the serotype is changed to H9N2, the immunity is still very low in these cases.”
There has been a surge in H9N2 infections in China which is seeing a rise of respiratory illnesses and pneumonia clusters among children.
“The children who do not have any immunity, if they get exposed to H9N2, which is quite a contagious virus that is spreading, then the probability of developing pneumonia is very high where the immunity is lower. Routinely, influenza is present with upper respiratory tract infections, throat infections, rhinitis, cough pain, body aches and fever. But where the immunity is lower, the probability of developing pneumonia is very high. And that is what is being seen in China,” said Dr Giri.
H9N2 is a serotype influenza virus. The influenza virus is a common virus that comes at the end of the season, especially when there is the onset of winter.
“The difference over here is that routinely during the winter we have various viruses that cause upper respiratory tract infections. In China, one virus has become quite prevalent; that stereotype is H9N2. The difference is that when we talk about our society in India, we have routine viruses, which are, accordingly, viral throat infections, upper respiratory tract infections and viral fever,” said Dr Giri.
Notably, at the onset of winter, pain in throat has been witnessed in many patients, which is similar to the other routine virus and it is not H9N2.
He further said that as of date, the Indian Government has also taken swift action and people need not be worried or panic about whether or not this virus will spread in India.
“The immunity of our children in India is far better than the immunity of the Chinese children. So the probability of having admissions for infections in the lung or pneumonia shall be very low in our scenario because in our country, people are more open to the environment and their immunity is far better than in developed countries. So their immunity to influenza is also very good.”
Because of the winter season, usually, even in adults, a lot of patients are coming with URIs and infections. However, this does not mean that there is a sudden surge in the number of patients. This is a routine patient who is coming to the OPD. In ENT OPD and in paediatric OPD, this is routine.
“I will not say that something very extraordinary is going on, although during the pollution there was a certain surge of some elderly patients who were coming and being admitted with complications. But this routine virus that is presenting itself to the children is not causing any complications per se, so there should not be any panic about it,” added Dr Giri.
Meanwhile, the Union Health Ministry has come up with many preventive steps, like isolation beds or isolation wards, equipment and other things in place.
“Any viral infection that is within the house or within the community, we always say that one should wear a mask and should stay in his house and in his room. If one person gets infected, be it a child or the mother, then other members of the family will get infected. So we always say to stay away and keep all the preventive measures,” he added.
He further said that, in the same way, the precautions over here will also be the same. “If any surge for H9N2 comes, then we probably need to gear up just like we did during COVID. I personally feel that I’m not finding any region where this virus will cause any problems or panic in India. It should not cause any panic,” he added.
(with inputs from ANI)