Health experts warn of unusual surge in viral flu cases

A significant uptick in influenza-like illnesses in Sri Lanka has prompted health experts to caution the public about the escalating number of cases reported from across the country.

As such, residents are urged to be vigilant for symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue.

Dr. Jude Jayamaha, a Consultant Virologist at the Medical Research Institute, highlighted the unusual nature of the situation, stating that the rate of influenza-positive cases has reached an unprecedented 25% based on samples collected in the last month and the first week of January.

Traditionally, influenza experiences two peaks annually, from November to February and April to July.

However, the current surge has raised concerns among health officials, leading the Secretary to the Health Ministry to direct the national influenza centre to bolster Influenza-like Illness Surveillance at 20 hospitals, including prominent institutions like Colombo, Ragama, Kalubowila, Negombo Hospitals, Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children, and Infectious Disease Hospital.

Dr. Jayamaha emphasized that influenza A is currently the predominant type based on the samples analyzed.

Certain groups are deemed more susceptible to influenza-like illnesses, including pregnant mothers, children under two years old, individuals aged 60 and above, and those with chronic diseases. In response to the surge, health authorities have intensified COVID-19 surveillance, with a six percent positive rate detected among 500 samples tested over a nine-day period.

As a preventive measure, Dr. Jayamaha urged individuals experiencing coughs to wear masks to prevent the spread of the illnesses to others.