Union health secretary, Sudhansh Pant, asked states to ensure that the trends of ILI and SARI should be closely monitored by the district and state surveillance units of Integrated Disease Surveillance Project
States will have to report all cases of serious respiratory illnesses—Influenza Like Illness (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) — among children and adolescents at the district level in view of clusters of respiratory illness being reported in children in certain parts of China, according to people familiar with the matter.
The samples will be sent to advanced regional laboratories to test for the microbe causing the illness.
“This is being done purely as a precautionary measure; so far no red flags have been seen but it is important to step-up the vigil. There is already a surveillance system in place for tracking respiratory illnesses owing to Covid-19, which will be made use of for further surveillance. As has been said before, risk for India continues to remain low,” a senior central government official said, requesting anonymity.
The health ministry has advised all states and Union territories to implement ‘Operational Guidelines for Revised Surveillance Strategy in the context of COVID-19’, shared earlier this year, which provides for integrated surveillance of respiratory pathogens that manifest as cases of influenza like illness and severe acute respiratory illness.
In a letter, Union health secretary, Sudhansh Pant, asked states to ensure that the trends of ILI and SARI should be closely monitored by the district and state surveillance units of Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP), particularly among children and adolescents.
“The data of ILI and SARI is required to be uploaded on IDSP- IHIP portal particularly from the public health institutions including medical college hospitals. States also asked to send nasal and throat swab samples of patients with SARI, particularly of children and adolescents, to Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratories (VRDL’s) located in the States for testing for respiratory pathogens,” he wrote.
“The cumulative effect of implementation of these precautionary and proactive collaborative measures is expected to counter any potential situation and ensure the safety and well-being of the citizens,” he added.
According to WHO, since mid-October 2023, it has been monitoring data from Chinese surveillance systems that have been showing an increase in respiratory illness in children in northern China.
On 13 November 2023, China’s National Health Commission reported on a nationwide increase in the incidence of respiratory diseases, predominantly affecting children. Chinese authorities attributed this increase to lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and the arrival of the cold season, and due to circulating known pathogens such as influenza, mycoplasma pneumoniae, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Mycoplasma pneumonia and RSV are known to affect children more than adults.
“While WHO has sought additional information from Chinese authorities, it is assessed that there is no cause for any alarm at the moment,” said the health ministry in an earlier statement.
The statement added that as a precautionary measure, the health ministry has begun immediate review of public health and hospital preparedness measures including availability of human resources, hospital beds, drugs and vaccines for influenza, medical oxygen, antibiotics, personal protective equipment, testing kits and reagents, functionality of oxygen plants and ventilators, and infection control practices in health facilities.
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