SRINAGAR – An unknown viral infection has gripped Kashmir Valley where everyday hundreds of children are being taken to different hospitals.
However, doctors have advised people not to panic as the infection they stated could be seasonal and would go away with simple medication.
In the meantime, the rush of viral-infected children has increased manifolds at G B Pant, Kashmir’s lone children hospital. “There is a huge rush of patients these days. For past one week, the number of patients in Out Patient Department has exceeded by 1000-1500 per day while the rush in causality department during night has also risen,” said a senior official at the hospital.
He added the infection would go as the weather may start improving from March.
However, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) stated that Kashmir valley is witnessing increase in number of flu cases due to an unusual influenza B virus which puts children at higher risk of having a severe disease.
“We have seen something this year that we haven’t seen in last 27 years which is increase in influenza B virus,” said DAK President and flu expert Dr. Nisar ul Hassan.
“Children are particularly vulnerable to influenza B virus and it can be fatal in them,” he said.
Dr. Nisar said the reason that kids are being hit hard this year is because the current influenza B virus hasn’t appeared in recent years, so children haven’t been exposed to it.
The older adults have been exposed to it more, they have got just more antibodies that protects them. “The last flu season where B strain was dominant was in 1992-93,” he informed.
In every district, both district as well as sub district hospitals are packed with children suffering from viral infection.
A doctor at GB Pant hospital advised parents not to send infected children to tuition centers, which have become main source of spread of viral infection.
He also mentioned the symptoms of the infection as cough, fever, chills, sore throat, headache, fatigue and runny or stuffy nose.
Pregnant Women Not Getting Flu Vaccine
“Most of the pregnant women in Kashmir valley are not getting vaccinated against flu,” said Doctors Association Kashmir
“Despite life-saving benefits of flu vaccine in pregnancy, majority of expectant mothers are unvaccinated,” Dr Nisar ul Hassan said.
“The reason why pregnant women are unvaccinated is because they are unawareabout the importance of flu vaccine,” he said.
“Also, doctors do not offer flu vaccine to expectant mothers putting them and their babies at risk,” he added.
Dr Nisar said pregnant women are prone to develop severe illness from flu, which can lead to hospitalization, and even death.
Quoting a study, he said flu vaccine reduces pregnant women’s risk of hospitalization by 40%.
“The vaccine in pregnancy saves infants from dying in the womb,” Dr Nisar said adding “a large study has shown that flu vaccine reduces the risk ofstillbirths by 51%.”
He said there is evidence to suggest that a pregnant woman sick with flu has a greater risk of preterm delivery and that a flu vaccine lessens that risk.
Dr Nisar said mother’s flu shot protects her baby up to 6 months after he or she is born, which is important because babies younger than 6 months of age cannot be vaccinated.
“In a paper published in journal Pediatrics it was found that infants born to women vaccinated for the flu were 81% less likely to be hospitalized during their first 6 months of life,” he said.
“Flu vaccine is perfectly safe for pregnant women and can be given to pregnant women during any stage of pregnancy.The power of vaccination in pregnancy is a message that should be broadcast far and wide. It is imperative that obstetricians should advocate for flu vaccination and provide flu vaccine to expecting mothers,” said Dr Nisar.