‘Seven H1N1 cases reported in capital’

ISLAMABAD: Out of the 120 confirmed cases of influenza (H1N1) reported across the country, seven have been reported in Islamabad, the National Institute of Health (NIH) revealed on Wednesday

A total of 400 suspected cases have been reported in hospitals across the country, of which 120 have been confirmed and 20 have died. The highest number of confirmed cases – 47 – was reported in Multan and nearby areas.

Dr Mumtaz Ali Khan, a specialist on infectious diseases and the senior scientific officer at the NIH, told Dawn that people should not panic due to the 20 fatalities from the virus.

Speaking on the sidelines of a seminar on influenza at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Dr Khan said: “Adult and health people do not even have to go to the hospital if they have influenza, because they recover from it within a few days. However, people who are diabetic, have asthma, cancer, heart [problems], children and elderly people should be careful, because influenza can increase their problems, which can even lead to death.”

120 out of 400 suspected influenza cases across the country confirmed, 20 fatalities reported, NIH reveals

He said the influenza vaccine is available in the market, and can be administered to anyone over the age of six months. One dose is effective for a year and costs over Rs500 should be given to everyone, he said.

Speaking to seminar participants, Dr Khan said: “Regular advisories regarding prevention, control, diagnosis and management of influenza are being issued by NIH. Seasonal Awareness and Alert Letters (SAAL) are also circulated to sensitise against epidemic-prone diseases, including influenza”.

He said the NIH has established a nationwide laboratory-based season influenza surveillance network at seven locations across Pakistan that provide basic information about the virus and support for laboratory detection.

NIH Surveillance Coordinator Dr Ambreen Chaudhry, who recently visited Multan, said the average age of an influenza patient in Multan was 38. Cases came from Multan, Lodhran, Muzaffargarh and Bahawalpur.

“However, records were not available about the medical history of patients. Moreover, proper facilities were not available in Multan’s hospitals. Delayed confirmation of the disease was observed, as most patients died the very next day after confirmation [that they had] influenza,” she said.

She said hospitals should dispose of their waste very carefully, as it can become a cause of the disease.

Pims administrator Dr Altaf Qureshi, the chief guest at the seminar, said the event had been arranged at a critical time due to media hype regarding the disease.

The NIH last month issued an advisory saying that people who are elderly or very young, pregnant, obese, immune-compromised or face chronic health problems such as asthma, diabetes, cardiac and lung diseases are at high-risk of development complications from the H1N1 virus.

The general public was advised to wash their hands with soap or use hand sanitizer if they come into close contact with someone with a flu-like illness.

“Avoid touching your nose, mouth or eyes as the virus survives on common surfaces, etc. Take rest, avoid crowds and take other social distancing measures. Young children having flu should stay home, rather than going to school, to avoid chances of transferring virus to other children,” the advisory said.

“Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. Avoid contaminating your hands, cough or sneeze into a tissue or the inner crook of your elbow. Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent infection and severe outcomes caused by influenza viruses particularly in high risk groups.”