Health authorities have urged the public to be cautious following an increase in influenza cases in recent weeks.

As the Maldives grapples with a surge in influenza cases, including H1N1, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has launched an extensive awareness campaign to educate the public about the potential dangers of influenza, preventive measures to avoid infection, and the appropriate course of action if symptoms manifest.

“Currently, three young adults are on ventilators due to influenza pneumonia,” revealed Dr Mohamed Ali, a physician at the National Centre for Respiratory Medicine at Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH). He further reassured the public by stating that the situation, while serious, is “very less likely to cause a pandemic.” Dr Ali underscored the importance of preventive measures, emphasising that severe illness from Influenza A can be mitigated with a flu shot, and urged the public to get vaccinated promptly.

The HPA has yet to confirm if the recent death of a young adult was explicitly attributable to influenza. Local media reports cited an official from the HPA stating that the deceased was recuperating from other medical complications at the time of death.

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 we commonly witness annually are predominantly caused by influenza A and B viruses, according to Dr Ali. 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.

The most effective strategy to prevent the seasonal flu and its potentially serious complications is to vaccinate annually. 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.