The deadly contours of deadly disease


The deadly H1N1 virus continues its fatal run claiming lives across Kashmir. With three more persons losing battle for their life to the deadly disease in Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical sciences ( SKIMS) on Thursday, the death toll has gone up to staggering 11 in the past three weeks. In Kashmir division, out of total 1, 23,948 OPD cases during the past one week, 18,409 cases of Acute Respiratory Tract Infections (ARI) were reported and 14 from various districts tested positive for H1N1. Doctors say that out of 490 samples taken by (SKIMS), 138 cases were detected positive in Kashmir whereas in Jammu five people have so far been detected positive for the virus. Out of 138 patients only 25 were admitted in SKIMS, out of which eight have so far been discharged from the hospital. They have been admitted in isolation ward. This is matter of serious concern. The even more alarming is the shortage of medicines. Till the other day we were repeatedly told that there was no reason to be panicked and all the hospitals were well equipped to tackle the disease. But the latest report says that the valley hospitals are without proper medicine. Barring SKIMS, there is no flu vaccine available in any hospital in the valley. This leaves SKIMS as the only testing and treatment centre. Experts say that the swine flu outbreak can be contained but only if medicines reach the affected on time. When the hospitals are not equipped with the testing and treatment drugs, how the disease could be contained. There is every reason for the people to feel panicky and authorities have no ground to stay on with the claim that people need not get panicked. The panic has gripped even the medical fraternity as well as the lack of relevant vaccines has put the lives of doctors at risk. Doctors at SKIMS, who are dealing with patients at the Emergency and the OPD of the hospital, voiced their apprehensions about catching infection in the absence of immunization and protective gear. Doctors and other hospital staff are not provided with personal protection equipment while dealing with H1N1 patients thus putting them also at risk of contracting the virus. Tamiflu (Oseltamivir), the only lifesaving drug for treatment and prophylaxis of H1N1 is not available in our hospitals which is criminal. There are no H1N1 vaccines which are to be given to high-risk persons with diabetes, elderly, children below 5 years, pregnant women, chronic diseases, immuno compromised and healthcare workers as the virus can be fatal in them. The designated laboratory for testing at SKIMS does not have the desired Biosafety-3 level for handling and processing H1N1 samples which is dangerous to staff and community. No sensitization and awareness programmes are conducted in hospitals with the result majority of H1N1 patients are overlooked. Public is deceived by statements made by some health officials while the fact of the matter is that hospitals in the valley are not prepared to combat any H1N1 outbreak. It is no less than criminal that despite these disturbing realities, some sections in the government would give false hope to people and come out with advisories of ‘no-panic’. Chief Minister Mahbooba Mufti should, in first place, take note of health hazards in the wake of fast spreading swine flu and activate the administration to take necessary measures, provide relevant vaccines and other medicine and expertise for the disease. As the lack of vaccines has hogged the headlines in national media as well, the central government should not wait for request from the state government. It is also necessary to mention here that people, in general, should take care of themselves, and should take all the required measures needed to protect oneself from the disease.