PESHAWAR: The health department has issued guidelines to hospitals for management of influenza-like illness, which has infected more than 130,000 people during the past six months in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

According to a report, compiled by health department’s Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response System, public sector health facilities of the province recorded 130,284 patients with influenza-like illness (ILI) from May to October 2023.

An official told this scribe that health department received guidelines from National Institute of Health Islamabad and circulated the same among all districts of the province to prevent spread of contagious disease. He said that with the onset of winter season, people stood exposed to flu and required protection.

“An advisory has been circulated for prevention and control of seasonal influenza, the uptick in which appears every year with varying level of its spread, timing, severity and length of the season, due to which we are monitoring the situation in all hospitals,” Dr Irshad Ali Roghani, the director of public health at director-general health services, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told Dawn.

Health dept issues guidelines for management of patients

He said that cases of seasonal influenza soared in December till February every year and more hospitalisations of patients with flu-associated issues were recorded. “We have also allocated isolation beds for patients at the hospitals to contain the virus,” he added.

Dr Irshad said that people having close contacts with patients, or had been in close contact with persons having ILI, should be go for frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water besides covering mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing. He also advised such people to take rest and avoid crowds.

He said that 28,402 people were affected by ILI in May and 19,520 in October in the province.

Dr Irshad said that Peshawar reported 3,230 patients, Upper Kurram 2,198, Swabi 1,974, Mansehra 1877, Haripur 1,836 and Battagram 1,476 while Malakand reported 1,177 cases.

According to the advisory, health facilities should stay alert for timely preventive and control measures as the seasonal influenza virus can cause mild to severe illness, particularly among high-risk individuals. The virus spreads from person to person through sneezing and coughing or touching contaminated surfaces.

“The disease is self-limiting but can cause deaths in people of all ages, therefore, treatment is mainly supportive and guidelines have been issued to all district health officers and medical superintendents of hospitals for management of hospitalised patients,” said Dr Irshad.

As per the recommendations of World Health Organisation, pregnant women, children from six to 59 months, elderly people and individuals with chronic medical conditions including chronic cardiac, pulmonary, renal, liver and other diseases should get vaccination for protection against seasonal influenza.

Samples from suspected patients should be sent to laboratory at 40C within four days with complete epidemiological data given to Public Health Reference Lab (PHRL) at Khyber Medical University to diagnose cases and take appropriate steps.

Dr Irshad said that PHRL, established by health department, was conducting tests for influenza free of cost. The laboratory, set up in collaboration with NIH and KMU, conducts all tests for notifiable diseases. It has enabled the province to cope with the public health issues.

“These tests were previously sent to NIH but now these are conducted in KMU and the results are made available in short period of time. It helps in prevention of outbreaks of diseases,” he said.

He said that National Institute of Health Islamabad wanted standardised surveillance across Pakistan to ensure that ILI, an acute respiratory infection with fever of over 38°C (100.4°F) temperature associated with cough, could stay under control and infected people were hospitalised.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2023

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