The Maldives has witnessed a significant surge in influenza cases, including H1N1, between December 2023 and January 2024, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA). The agency told Maldives Republic that 68 cases of influenza were identified in the past month, marking a substantial rise from the 24 cases detected in December 2023.

In response to this alarming health trend, the HPA has called for heightened cautionary action, particularly towards influenza and Covid-19. The agency has urged the public to adopt stringent protective measures to curb the spread of these diseases, including covering the nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing, maintaining high standards of cleanliness, and frequent handwashing.

The HPA has also initiated an extensive public awareness campaign on the potential dangers of influenza, preventive measures to avoid infection, and the appropriate course of action if symptoms manifest. Three hundred fifty-two individuals who exhibited symptoms of the disease were tested in January, of which 68 were identified as positive, according to the agency.

Despite the rise in influenza cases, the HPA reported a decline in dengue cases in January compared to December 2023. The number of people seeking medical treatment for the flu also declined in January, although cases of diarrhoea increased compared to the previous month.

In light of the increase in influenza cases, the HPA has urged individuals in vulnerable categories to get vaccinated to avoid severe disease and to seek medical attention at the onset of symptoms.

Influenza, a highly contagious respiratory illness, is caused by influenza viruses that infect the cells lining the nose, throat, and lungs. The virus propagates 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 commonly witnessed annually are predominantly caused by influenza A and B viruses. The H1N1 flu is a subtype of influenza A, which encompasses many strains of influenza virus, not all of which infect humans. Currently, the strains of influenza A viruses found in people are H1N1 and H3N2.

Vaccinating annually is the most effective strategy to prevent the seasonal flu and its potentially serious complications. Other preventive measures include practicing good personal health and hygiene habits such as not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding close contact with sick people, and staying home when sick. These measures can help curtail the spread of the virus and safeguard individuals from infection.