KARACHI: Subsiding concerns of the general public and health authorities alike, a senior specialist in infectious diseases on Tuesday said the H1N1 (swine flu pandemic) strain, which had affected 38 people in less than a month, had a low mortality rate and simple precautions were needed to prevent it.

“This weather-infused influenza has been affecting people since 2009 in the months of December and January and so far some 38 cases of this strain and five cases of other influenzas have been reported since Dec 14,” said Prof Bushra Jamil, head of infectious diseases section at Aga Khan University Hospital, while addressing a press conference.

Earlier, the reports about H1N1 swine flu affecting 38 people in the city had rung alarm bells putting the authorities on their toes and creating huge concerns among the general public fearing the worst impacts associated with the strain.

However, experts said the strain called H1N1 pandemic, which spread across the world in 2009, had mortality ratio of as low as 0.001, and that too threatened those more with ‘compromised immunity’.

Sindh had put its health authorities on alert after the recent reports about deaths of 18 people in parts of Punjab due to seasonal influenza.

The deaths in Multan and other parts of Punjab had perturbed the relevant government quarters in Sindh while the professional bodies of the medical practitioners were equally concerned asking the governments in centre and provinces to take rigorous measures to save lives.

Officials in the Sindh health ministry said they were taking all possible measures to ensure that no such incidence could emerge in the province where similar situations had been reported lately.

The AKUH expert said the severity of influenza in Sindh was much milder than the cases reported from Punjab. Besides, the number of cases in Punjab was much greater than the provincial capital.

The AKUH is the only health centre in the city with the diagnostic facilities to detect the presence of the virus.

Officials said no death caused by the strain had been reported yet.

H1N1 pandemic-09 is a contagious disease which spreads through droplets of infected individuals when they sneeze or cough without covering their mouth or nose.

Prof Jamil said people should imply cough etiquettes, i.e., cover one’s mouth while coughing otherwise anyone nearby could get infected by inhaling the droplets.

She said no children or women were among the patients of H1N1 strain in Karachi.

She added children, elderly, and people with compromised immunity who had affected by the virus had greater need of care and precautionary measures.

Officials in the health ministry in Sindh and experts agreed with the fact that the presence of the virus was there in the environment, but, unlike the hyped reports, it could not be called an epidemic.

She advised the people to wash hands regularly and take plenty of liquids etc.

Officials in the provincial government said Sindh had no lab to identify H1N1 virus and officials across the province had been asked to send samples of suspected swine flu cases for confirmation to the National Institute of Health, Islamabad.

Isolation ward set up

A six-bed isolation ward has been established at Dr Ruth K.M. Pfau Civil Hospital for treatment of suspected swine flu (H1N1) patients.

Officials said kits are being purchased to analyse such cases.

Authorities decided to set up the ward after reporting of swine flu cases at a private sector hospital.

Medical superintendent of the hospital Dr Muhammad Tofique said kits were being purchased to investigate suspected influenza cases.

The executive director, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center, Dr Seemin Jamali, said protective masks had been purchased for doctors, nurses and paramedics to deal with the suspected seasonal influenza cases.

She said seasonal influenza was a viral disease and it could spread from one person to another.

She advised citizens to take fresh, healthy and balanced diet; use tissue papers to clean nose, do not hug or shake hands with others and do not share glasses, plates, cups, spoons, towels, mobile phones, etc., if one suffered from flu.

Medical superintendent of Abbasi Shaheed Hospital Dr Muhammad Anwer said they were on the alert for possible spread of the virus.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2018

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