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Keep close watch on evolving etiologies: Centre issues advisory on Covid

New Delhi, March 25 (IANS) Amid rising cases of Covid-19 across the country, the Centre on Saturday issued a joint advisory underlining to keep a close watch on the evolving etiologies.

The advisory has been issued jointly by DG, Indian Council of Medical Research, Dr Rajiv Bahl and Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan advising to keep watching the cause of disease.

“A gradual but sustained increase in trajectory of Covid-19 cases in the country is being witnessed since mid-February 2023. As on date, most of the active cases in the country are largely being reported by a few states like Kerala (26.4 per cent), Maharashtra (21.7 per cent), Gujarat (13.9 per cent), Karnataka (8.6 per cent) and Tamil Nadu (6.3 per cent). While the rates of hospitalisation and death due to the disease remains low, largely because of the significant coverage achieved in terms of Covid-19 vaccination rates by all states/UTs, this gradual rise in cases needs reinvigorated public health actions to contain the surge,” said the advisory.

The advisory reads further, “States/UTs must keep a close watch on the evolving etiologies (causes of diseases) of Influenza Like Illness (lLl) and Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) cases. India usually sees a seasonal rise in influenza cases from January to March & again from August to October. Presently, the most prominent subtypes of influenza in circulation in the country seem to be influenza A (H1Nl) and influenza A (H3N2).”

The states have been told that Covid and influenza share a number of similarities in terms of mode of transmission, high risk population, clinical signs and symptoms. While this may present a clinical dilemma for the attending doctors in terms of diagnosis, this also renders both these diseases easily preventable by following simple public health measures like avoiding overcrowded and poorly ventilated settings, wearing a mask in crowded & closed settings, advisory reads.

The Centre has also advised to take a stock of hospital preparedness including drugs, beds including lCU beds; medical equipment, medical oxygen, capacity building of human resource on existing guidelines as well as vaccination coverage.

The advisory has also flagged low level of testing by states and UTs and has said that testing levels are insufficient as compared to the standards prescribed by WHO i.e 140 tests per million.

“Testing at the level of districts & blocks also varies, with some states heavily relying on the less sensitive rapid antigen tests. Hence it is critical to maintain optimum testing for Covid-19, equitably distributed across the states,” said the advisory.