The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has revealed that 19 cases of influenza have so far been reported in the Maldives this January, indicating a notable uptick in the prevalence of the highly contagious respiratory illness.

The surge in influenza cases is primarily attributed to increased travel to neighbouring countries, where influenza, Covid-19, and other flus are prevalent, particularly during the recent school holidays, according to the HPA. Statistics revealed by the HPA show that 154 cases of influenza were confirmed over the past four and a half months. The majority of these cases were of the H1N1 strain, a subtype of influenza A, which includes many strains of the influenza virus, not all of which infect humans.

In light of the escalating number of influenza and Covid-19 cases in the Maldives, the HPA is urging people, particularly those in vulnerable categories such as children, the elderly, and those with terminal illnesses, to get vaccinated. “Receiving the flu shot will significantly reduce the risk of severe illness caused by influenza,” the HPA emphasised.

Three young adults are presently receiving treatment on ventilators due to complications from influenza pneumonia. The HPA has yet to confirm whether the recent death of a young adult was directly attributable to influenza. Local media reports have quoted an HPA official stating that the deceased was recovering from other medical complications at the time of death.

The influenza virus, which infects the cells lining the nose, throat, and lungs, spreads through the air in droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, breathes, or talks, and others inhale these contaminated droplets. Influenza viruses are classified into four types: A, B, C, and D. The seasonal epidemics we commonly witness annually are predominantly caused by influenza A and B viruses.