Swine Flu: 8 Dead, 45 Test Positive at SKIMS

Srinagar—Even when 8 people have died of H1N1 infection, also known as swine flu since October this year and 45 persons have tested positive in Kashmir Valley, the state government’s health Ministry say there is nothing to panic.

“Though we have asked the citizens to be careful about the virus, but there was no need for panic as medicines and facilities to tackle the disease were in place,” Minister of State for Health and Medical Education Asiya Naqash told KNS over phone from Jammu.

The minister said that vaccines are available in SKIMS only. “We have huge stock of vaccines available at SKIMS Soura and have ordered more. Those who are vulnerable for flue can approach the hospital authorities at SKIMS for vaccination,” the minister maintained.

She said that there was no shortage of medicines and swine flu-testing facilities were being provided to the people. “No stone has been left unturned as far as seriousness is concerned and all efforts have been made. There is no need to panic, but we have to be alert,” she said.

“We are not seeing too many severe cases needing hospitalization .Swine flu has anyway been declared seasonal flu so there is no cause for concern,” she maintained.

The minister advised that high risk people that include elderly, children, and people with low immunity should consult a doctor if symptoms are severe or persist longer.

She said that health department is putting together a detailed report from the hospitals. “We have introduced help lines and have increased the number of people working on anti-swine flu campaign,” she maintained.

Meanwhile while the health authorities continue to assure people that there was nothing to panic and everything was under control, the people here are raising questions over the state government’s claim of preparedness to tackle the situation.

Experts believe that as the mercury begins to dip, there is every chance of rise in the number of people infected with influenza. “Though the vaccination is the best possible way of protection, but the cost makes it unaffordable for most, putting the lives, especially of those in the high risk groups, at risk,” says one of the health experts.

Experts said that those at high risk include the elderly (above 60 years of age) and children below five years with predisposing factors (for example, asthma), pregnant women and patients with an underlying chronic disease which has affected the functioning of lungs, kidney, liver or heart. It also includes those diagnosed with diabetes, immune suppression (for example, HIV infection, long-term steroid treatment) or cancer.

Experts said that if high-risk patients show signs and symptoms such as high-grade fever and severe cough or sore throat, they are advised treatment with the antiviral drug, without the need for testing.

Testing and treatment are required for those who, in addition to high-grade fever and cough, show symptoms of infection in the lower respiratory tract and lungs (viral pneumonia).

“One should watch out for breathlessness, chest pain, drowsiness, a fall in blood pressure, blood in the sputum and bluish discoloration of the nails as well as a worsening of the underlying chronic illness in high-risk patients. In children below five years, shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing, high and persistent fever, poor feeding and convulsions are also signs of danger,” experts suggests.

It is important that we observe simple precautions to prevent the spread of influenza. Those who have influenza-like illness should practise cough etiquette (like covering the mouth with a clean handkerchief while coughing) and wash their hands regularly. They should also avoid public places and take a break from work for a few days to avoid spreading the infection.

Experts said that those who are in the high-risk groups may consider taking the influenza vaccine. The vaccine needs to be taken every year due to the changing pattern of strains and the mutations that can occur in them from season to season. (KNS)

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