2023: A dance of multiple flu viruses

Especially, Bengaluru, with an open drainage network, provided favourable breeding conditions for viruses and also caused an increase in virus-borne diseases.
Image used for representation
Image used for representation

BENGALURU: While most of the year 2023 had kept Covid-19 pretty much in the back of people’s minds, a new viral mutation, JN.1, emerged as a scare, although mild but highly transmissible. The new variant and the scare is likely to take us through and into the new year. Experts are still researching whether the rising number of Covid cases are linked to the new sub-variant, but 2023, at least towards its fag end, has returned the old scare back to dominate people’s minds.

During the Covid years (2020-early 2022), several viral variants came into circulation, but people were not exposed to them due to the lockdown.

The uncertainty of COVID-19 emerging and rapidly spreading had then resulted in a complete shutdown of the entire world. As isolation and mask-wearing became the ‘new normal’, to protect oneself from the virus, it weakened people’s immunity in the post-pandemic era, such that after COVID-19, a viral fever wave was observed throughout the year instead of just through the climate-changing phases.

As viruses keep mutating, even doctors faced difficulties understanding the exact cause of the flu at certain times. The fear of Covid, which had gone — at least from people’s minds — is back now and the cases are rising, thanks to the new variant JN.1 in neighbouring Kerala as well as Karnataka. The last few days of the year are seeing experts insisting on people — mainly the elderly, those with comorbidities and pregnant women — wearing masks and following Covid-appropriate behaviour (CAB) to minimise the risk of infection.

Now, with every changing season, some old viruses or their mutations are circulating leading to flu-like cases. Post-Covid, individuals are seen building an exaggerated immune response, which pro-actively reacts to viruses, causing fever or cold. The same has contributed to a surge in dengue/dengue-like cases in September 2023, and close to 60 per cent of the cases have been diagnosed as dengue-like due to a lack of study of the dengue-causing viruses.

Especially, Bengaluru, with an open drainage network, provided favourable breeding conditions for viruses and also caused an increase in virus-borne diseases. Throughout 2023, the city and the state witnessed frequent dengue, dengue-like cases, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections, viral pneumonia, conjunctivitis, and gastroenteritis cases in phases. While the weather-changing period saw a significant spikes in footfalls at the outpatient departments (OPDs), few cases were consistently seen during other times. Overall, 2023 has remained a year of viral infections of different kinds throughout, but now the year is exiting leaving a scare that could dominate minds and policies in the days to come.


438 Namma clinics launched
The Karnataka government inaugurated 438 namma clinics across Karnataka aiming to improve accessibility and provide preventive facilities within people’s neighbourhoods. However, the clinics have received criticism from experts stating that it is ‘gimmicky’ and only were launched ahead of elections to gain a vote bank. Instead, the state must have invested in improving the already present health infrastructure.

Rural service not mandatory for doctors
The state legislative assembly passed the Karnataka Compulsory Service by Candidates Completed Medical Courses (Amendment Bill), exempting MBBS graduates from mandatory rural service. However, this decision is reportedly taken to cut down on the salary expenses of doctors which takes a huge chunk in the health budget.

K’taka 1st state to launch ‘dementia action plan’
In order to ensure preparedness for an expected high incidence of dementia patients in India, the state declared it a public health priority. The action plan will focus on creating public awareness, reducing stigma, screening high-risk groups (above 60 years) for dementia, providing home-based caregiver assistance, and promoting brain health and mental health for overall well-being.
The state will also maintain a registry to study the prevalence of the disease.

Single-use dialysis centres
Single-use dialysers and an increased number of dialysis centres were introduced to be set up across district and taluk-level hospitals. Experts have suggested it will reduce cross-infection among healthcare workers and patients. In case of haemodialysis, the same equipment is used multiple times after washing. The used dialyser and tubes have to be cleaned after every dialysis procedure.

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