Swine Flu: Is Kashmir ready for an outbreak?

Aakash Hassan

SRINAGAR: As the swine flu surfaced again in the state with ten cases of H1N1 found in Jammu province, in which three people have already died, doctors in Kashmir have raised concern over the preparations in Kashmir valley in case of flu breakout.
As per the latest data of the health department, five cases of H1N1 were found positive in Jammu district, in which one died. Another case has been found in Kathua, two each in Kishtwar and Rajouri, one among them has died. Moreover, 270 cases of dengue have also been found.
Swine flu, also known as H1N1 virus, is a relatively new strain of an influenza virus that causes symptoms similar to the regular flu. It originated in pigs but is spread primarily from person to person. Swine flu made headlines in 2009 when it was first discovered in humans and became a pandemic.
Last month, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) issued an advisory after tests were found positive in Jammu.
“The people who died were H1N1 positive but besides that they were suffering from multiple ailments,” state’s health minister Bali Bhagat told Kashmir Reader. “We have started to aware people through media and proper steps are being taken. Among the people who have been affected none is admitted in hospital and they are receiving proper treatment,” he claimed.
Dr Saleem-ur-Rehman, Director Health Services, Kashmir said that department is doing its job and teams are already established in every district to monitor the situation.
“We have a regular state surveillance unit at district levels and they monitor situation continuously,” he said. “Only one case of H1N1 has been reported in the valley so far from Budgam district two months ago.”
However, senior doctors in Kashmir do not agree with the official claims and have cautioned people.
“It has already knocked at the doors of our state and I don’t think we are properly papered for it. Our system wakes up only after there are deaths like it happened in past,” said President DAK and flu expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan.
This year’s flu vaccine has been updated and contains protection against mutated swine flu strain along with several other strains.
“I have already given an alert. This year there is a new strain of virus in circulation called the Michigan strain that has replaced earlier California strain which was circulating since pandemic 2009,” Dr Nisar told Kashmir Reader. “There are bigger changes as the virus is no more seasonal. There have been a lot of deaths in India in summer this year.”
This year the cases of H1N1 have surged over 14 times from 2016.
As many as 265 persons have died due to H1N1 last year, this year so far 1100 persons have died, DAK earlier said in a statement.
Doctors say that the new virus is “unusual, attacking young and healthy.”
Terming the condition of health department as pathetic, Dr Nisar said: “the flu season has begun and we have not vaccinated yet”.
“Vaccine is recommended for all as per the global standards,” he said adding, “it is especially needed in too young, old, pregnant and people with medical conditions.”
DAK president also said that most of the hospitals and the private chemists don’t have antiviral drugs available.
He said that hospitals in the state are not equipped to handle any sort of outbreak situation.
“The health care workers have not been vaccinated. They are the first line in the job if anything happens. There is no isolation ward in periphery hospitals to treat the patients,” he said.