“A person can infect others from one day before getting sick to five-seven days afterwards,” he said adding “people generally get sick within few days of getting infection varying with immune status.”
What could have been a tightly-kept secret on Swine Flu outbreak in Kashmir, this summer capital has been recording the deadly cases, at least since October 2014, at SK Institute of Medical Sciences, Soura, where some 50 patients were treated till last year-end alone.
Maintaining that “influenza has been circulating with varying severity across the globe”, Dr Parvaiz Koul, Head of the Internal and Pulmonary Medicine, SKIMS and Principal Investigator for the Influenza Project in Kashmir in an exclusive interview to Greater Kashmir, said: “A heightened awareness among the people is good but sensationalism not only creates undue panic, it turns counter- productive burdening the healthcare resources unnecessarily.”
Though dispelling the notion that consumption of mutton or chicken can cause Swine Flu, the medico asked the people to be cautious of the disease symptoms, dos and don’ts. “A person can infect others from one day before getting sick to five-seven days afterwards,” he said adding “people generally get sick within few days of getting infection varying with immune status.”
The influenza pandemic of 1918 wiped nearly 50 million people from the surface of the Earth.
There have been multiple epidemics since then and the latest one in this regard was in 2009. Since this one occurred in an era of technological advances, the dissemination and hence the panic associated with it spread more rapidly. About 500,000 deaths are otherwise attributable to influenza each year. In the United States alone, there are round 36,000 estimated deaths yearly.
However, in Kashmir the influenza activity has not been anyway unusual and has certainly been less severe than the rest of the India till date. A heightened awareness among the people is good but sensationalism not only creates undue panic but turns counter- productive burdening the healthcare resources un-necessarily.
However fever is commoner in influenza and nasal stuffiness in common cold. Further gastrointestinal symptoms and other severe complications can accompany influenza and are not usually seen with common cold. Extreme exhaustion and severe cough is more common in flu. Doctors can distinguish between the two and when in doubt they order testing.
This is true for all respiratory infections. Aerosols do not travel beyond a meter and we must maintain a distance of at least one meter from infected patients. A sick patient should voluntarily maintain social distancing and avoid congregations and crowded social or religious settings. Adequate rest helps in combating flu in most of the cases and should be undertaken.
If the person with history of close contact with person suffering from respiratory illness gets symptoms of flu, he must immediately consult a doctor for possible testing and treatment.
Although they did issue a low key denial the next day, the damage was already done. We keep on advising patients regarding the infection control measures. I have personally gone on air on Radio Kashmir as well as Big 92.7 FM advising people of the measures to be adopted.
Our daily machine log and reports go the relevant Union Health Ministry department of EMR through our National Coordinating Center in Pune. So even if we want to hide it, we cannot.
We have observed an increase in activity for the past 4-6 weeks and it is continuing. Without going into exact numbers, I would say that we have seen scores of patients. Fortunately we did not have many severe cases. It is a dynamic process and cases get diagnosed on a regular basis.
We participate in external quality assurance and a portion of our tested results are reconfirmed by the CDC. I am proud to state that our concordance with the CDC has been 100%. The lab personnel are vaccinated and adopt recommended safety measures while collecting and processing samples.
The requirement of a BSL 3 facility for testing influenza was scrapped by CDC way back in 2009 only. I would request media to reconfirm stated claims before publishing because statements made on the basis of ignorance create a lot of damage.
It may be prudent to add that the 6000 odd samples that we have tested free of cost would cost Rs three crores in the market. All patients from high profile states like Gujarat and Rajasthan are getting tested in private labs at a whopping cost. We need to be lauded and not be the recipients of brickbats. Give the devil its due.
Fortunately we did not need to admit anyone to the facility as yet.