The federal government has asked all of the states and union territories to implement new protocols for the coordinated monitoring of respiratory pathogens that cause influenza-like illness (ILI) and other severe forms of acute respiratory infection (SARI).
The Centre on Saturday voiced alarm about a steady increase in the COVID-19 positive rate in several states, saying it needed to be handled quickly in light of an increase in cases of the seasonal influenza subtype H3N2.
Operational guidelines for integrated surveillance of respiratory pathogens presenting as instances of influenza-like illness (ILI) or severe acute respiratory infection have been issued by the Centre and are being followed by all states and Union territories.
The states were also asked to assess their hospitals' level of preparation with regards to things like medicine and oxygen supplies, as well as COVID-19 and influenza vaccination rates.
"While the COVID-19 trajectory has decreased substantially in last few months, the gradual rise in COVID-19 test positivity rates in some states is a concerning issue that needs to be promptly addressed," Rajesh Bhushan, Union Health Secretary, wrote to states and UTs.
Bhushan emphasised the importance of maintaining vigilance and concentrating on the five-fold strategy of testing, tracking, treating, vaccinating, and adhering to Covid-appropriate behaviour, despite the low number of new cases, the similarly low number of hospitalisations, and the significant advances made regarding COVID-19 vaccination coverage.
Certain states and UTs around the nation have seen an increasing incidence of additional ILIs and SARIs, prompting a conference to be organised with the relevant federal ministries, agencies, and organisations to assess the situation.
A number of viral respiratory pathogens, including Influenza A (H1N1, H3N2, etc.), and adenoviruses, are able to spread easily this season due to a combination of weather conditions and behavioural reasons, including insufficient attention to personal hygiene, coughing without adequate protection, closed indoor gatherings of people, etc.
According to data given by states and UTs for the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP), Bhushan says that the incidence of ILI/SARI is on the rise throughout the nation.
Nevertheless, an increase of Influenza A is seen from the second part of December last year, as reported by integrated sentinel based monitoring of ILI and SARI.
The IDSP units at the state and district levels must keep a careful eye on the pattern of ILI and SARI in their regions, track the percentage of cases, and refer a sufficient number of samples for testing for influenza, SARS-CoV-2, and adenovirus in order to take the necessary public health measures.
(With PTI inputs)