Doctors advise no arbitrary tests for influenza flu type B

November 02, 2022 - 09:03
An influenza type B epidemic is breaking out in Hà Nội and many northern provinces, especially in Chợ Đồn District of Bắc Kạn Province


Children with respiratory diseases, including influenza type B, treated in a hospital in Hà Nội. — VNA/VNS Photo Tạ Nguyên 

HÀ NỘI — Many people have respiratory infections, coughs, and fevers, but due to excessive anxiety about influenza type B, they do tests that are not necessary and waste money, according to doctors.

An influenza type B epidemic is breaking out in Hà Nội and many northern provinces, especially in Chợ Đồn District of Bắc Kạn Province, causing more than 800 students to be absent from school and one death, making people more worried when they and their children have symptoms of fever, running nose and cough.

Finding that her child had a high fever for three days with a runny nose and cough, Nguyễn Thu Trang in Hà Nội’s Hoàng Mai District felt nervous so she contacted a health care facility to test for influenza B for her child.

After waiting for half a day, she received the results that her child had influenza B.

"Currently, there are many diseases at the same time, I was very worried, so I wanted to test to see what disease my child has to have a treatment,” Trang said.

“After knowing that my child got influenza type B, I did not know about this flu strain, is it dangerous or not? So I had to consult a doctor to know how to take care of my child," Trang said.

Hoàng Thị Minh, a mother in Hà Nội, took her two children to the hospital for examinations because in her children’s classes, many children got sick and were coughing.

In the hospital, her children were diagnosed with influenza type B that causes bronchitis.

"In the past two months, my children have had the flu twice," Minh said. "The first time they only had a fever and cough, but this time they tested positive for influenza type B. The flu turned into bronchitis."

Many hospitals and clinics are now overcrowded because many children with coughs and fevers come in for examinations.

Many people who only have fever and cough symptoms are so worried that they book home flu testing services that are wasteful and expensive.

The price of a quick test for influenza types A and B at home from Medlatec Hospital is VNĐ359,000 (US$14.3). Other testing facilities also offer similar prices.

"My family has three people with cough and fever," Phạm Văn Mạnh, a resident of Hà Nội’s Hai Bà Trưng District. "I was so worried that I called a home testing service to take samples to quickly test for influenza types A/B and dengue fever.”

“The dengue fever test price was VNĐ329,000 (US$13.1) per person, and a rapid influenza A/B test was VNĐ349,000 per person. The tests totalled over VNĐ2 million ($80),” Mạnh said.

According to doctors, there is no need to rush to get tested for the flu, and flu testing should only be done for very severe cases.

Trương văn Quý, head of the Pediatrics Department of E Hospital, said that influenza testing is only done for cases requiring hospitalisation for treatment, but for cases of home monitoring the test is unnecessary.

"It is the time of season change. The weather changes erratically so the number of children suffering from respiratory diseases tends to increase, of which many children have influenza B,” said Assoc., Prof., Tạ Anh Tuấn, head of Intensive Treatment Department of the National Children's Hospital. “Although influenza B is one of the common seasonal flu strains in our country and occurs every year, not all parents understand correctly about the disease, leading to subjective psychology or excessive panic and anxiety.”

According to the doctor, many families are too worried, so they arbitrarily test their children when it is not needed or use the wrong medicines that waste money and badly affect the children’s health.

Warning signs of influenza type B

According to doctor Tuấn, parents need to know about influenza B to know how to care for and monitor their children when they get sick.

Influenza B is a seasonal flu with four types - A, B, C and D - that often causes respiratory infections.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, studies have shown that, among seasonal flu cases, influenza cases caused by influenza B strains are about 40 per cent, influenza A accounts for 60 per cent, and influenza C and D are very rare strains.

Like influenza type A, influenza type B spreads from person to person through small droplets containing the flu virus in the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, or by touching surfaces contaminated with infected droplets and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes.

The incubation period of influenza type B is from one to four days from the time of infection with the virus. Children and people with weakened immune systems may have a longer incubation period.

Like with influenza A, common symptoms with influenza B include fever, sore throat, dry cough, headache, body aches, joint pain, and feeling exhausted.

Children with the flu may also have gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

Most cases of influenza B are mild and self-recovery. However, viruses can also cause serious complications such as viral pneumonia or bacterial superinfection, and there are also other serious but very rare complications such as myocarditis, encephalitis, rhabdomyolysis, and multi-organ failure.

Accordingly, subjects prone to serious complications from influenza include infants and children under five years old, especially children under two years old, children with chronic diseases of immunodeficiency disease, liver disease, kidney disease, asthma, chronic lung disease, pulmonary hypertension, and children receiving immunosuppressive drugs for cancers, blood diseases, metabolic disorders and obesity.

The doctor also noted that most patients with influenza type B can be treated and cared for at home.

In particular, the use of antibiotics is not effective against influenza viruses. People only take antiviral drugs in some special cases depending on the clinical situation, and the doctor will prescribe appropriate treatment.

For children with mild flu, parents should mainly treat symptoms by letting patients rest at home with a clean, cool and ventilated environment, use antipyretics if a fever is over 38.5 degrees Celsius, and feed soft and liquid foods, and fluids such as fruit juice and electrolyte solutions.

Tuấn advised that the children must be hospitalised when they have a fever above 39.5 degrees Celsius and it does not come down when using antipyretics, or a fever above 38.5 degrees Celsius for more than three days; rapid breathing and abnormal breathing such as wheezing, chest retraction and respiratory muscle contraction; rapid pulse, cold limbs when there is no high fever; refusing to eat or drink; signs of dehydration such as dry lips, sunken eyes, dry mucous membranes of the mouth/tongue, thirst for water, or urinating less; changes in consciousness such as crying, lethargy and convulsing; and abdominal pain/chest pain or vomiting a lot (for older children). — VNS