A 65-year old man died of H1N1 influenza (Swine Flu) at SK Institute of Medical Sciences Soura last week, second such death in Kashmir in the past 20 days, making this the highest toll of this season in any state.
Sources revealed that the man from Srinagar breathed his last at SKIMS on January 6, three days after he was admitted to the hospital. The man, while being treated at the hospital, had tested positive for H1N1 influenza. He reportedly had severe respiratory distress and was brought to hospital in a "very sick condition."
Medical Superintendent SKIMS, Dr Syed Amin Tabish, said the patient was “critical when brought to hospital”.
“He had multiple problems plus sepsis and went into a shock,” he said. “The patient died in our Medicine ward.”
The hospital officials said that this was the first Swine Flu death in the hospital this season.
There has been no public awareness or advisory from health authorities till now, even as Kashmir is bracing with a cold season ‘viable for flu viruses’ as per experts. Doctors are reporting complacency among masses, even high risk populations, and are concerned that the importance of exercising precautions and vaccination was not well communicated.
At SKIMS, authorities argued that advisory was not being issued to avoid “panic” among public.
“Creating unnecessary panic is against medical ethics,” MS SKIMS said. He added that there was “nothing” right now that demanded an advisory. “I would come out in media if there is a need, if the situation demands,” he said.
Government Medical College Srinagar had issued an advisory following death of a 43 year old man on December 21. However, the advisory was not made public and was “internally circulated”. “Institutional advisory has been circulated,” Dr Saleem Khan, Head Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, said. He added that the department was keeping a vigil on the situation.
Dr Saleem ur Rehman, Director Health Services Kashmir, said the directorate had “communicated to all the epidemiological units across Kashmir about notifying any such case”. “So far, we have not seen any such activity and if there is, we will act accordingly,” he said.
Medicos urged that people be made aware of precautions that need to be exercised for all kinds of flu and also the importance and benefits of vaccination.
A senior Pulmonologist at a city hospital said that the high risk patients, those with cardiac and respiratory ailments were advised to go for vaccination “right from September” but given the lack of information about the circulating viruses and myths and misconceptions about vaccination, it was ignored.
Dr Parvaiz A Kaul, influenza expert and HoD Internal Medicine SKIMS, said, “A spike in cases was expected as Kashmir was seen to have similar pattern as Delhi.” He reiterated, “Considering the past behaviour of the virus, it was advisable to go for influenza vaccination, especially for children, pregnant women, elderly, diabetics and patients with kidney and lung diseases, asthmatics, and health care workers.”