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Amid surge in H1N1, SKIMS discusses gaps between perception and action

In wake of the spike in number of samples that have tested positive for H1N1 influenza, SKIMS arranged a continuing medical education (CME) session, open to all.
Srinagar | Posted : Dec 7 2017 1:44AM | Updated: Dec 7 2017 12:58AM
Amid surge in H1N1, SKIMS discusses gaps between perception and action
Representational Pic

Amidst surge in cases of H1N1 influenza in Kashmir, an awareness programme was organised by department of internal medicine at Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences here today in a bid to bridge gaps between “perception and action.”

In wake of the spike in number of samples that have tested positive for H1N1 influenza, SKIMS arranged a continuing medical education (CME) session, open to all. The event, that witnessed threadbare discussions related to influenza scenario in Kashmir, was attended by senior and junior level doctors of SKIMS in addition to other employees and students of the institute.

Influenza expert and head of department of internal and pulmonary medicine, Prof Parvaiz A Kaul delivered a lecture on influenza based on the extensive research work on influenza compiled at the institute. A panel discussion with Prof Rafi Jan, Prof SU Shah, Dr Mudassar, Dr Ajaz Koul and Dr Umar Hafeez as members followed.

“Doctors need to differentiate between common cold and flu based on certain criteria,” Dr Kaul said. He said that whereas common cold was not characterized by fever, in influenza, this was a common symptom. Other symptoms of influenza were sore throat, unproductive cough, runny or stuffy nose, headache, fatigue, anorexia and body aches. He further said that 30-50 percent of people infected with influenza virus would not experience any symptoms at all.

Stressing that isolation or self quarantine was imperative to contain spread of influenza and other air borne infections, Prof Kaul said, “CDC (center for disease control USA) recommends that a child with influenza should not be sent to school till his/her symptoms disappear and that should be applied to other congregations also.”

The subject of influenza vaccination evoked queries and discussions among the participants. Prof Bashir Ahmed Laway, head department of endocrinology at SKIMDS said that there was lack of awareness about vaccines not just among masses but among medical practitioners also. Experts expressed concern over the fact that there existed a gap between perception and action regarding vaccination.

“While people did understand that influenza was threat to their health and life, the uptake of vaccination was poor,” said Prof SU Shah said. The panel agreed that attitude and behavior of doctors towards vaccination would determine the message that percolates to masses. “We (doctors) are custodians of people’s health and must address the fears and misconceptions related to it,” said Prof Rafi Jan.

Replying to a question as to whether vaccination was still beneficial when influenza had already infected a huge number of people, Prof Shah said that “earlier was better” but vaccination was still effective and could be taken any time till there was circulation of the virus. “late fall or early winter was the best time to get vaccinated,” Dr Koul said. He said that influenza activity rise has been witnessed since October in Kashmir.

Vaccine reduces the chances of getting influenza, reduces intensity of influenza, reduces incidence and duration of hospitalization. Various medical bodies such as federation of obstetric and gynaecological societies of India (FOGSI), Indian academy of pediatrics (IAP) and Indian academy of geriatrics have recommended vaccination.

Asserting that high risk groups must be prioritized for vaccination considering the limited availability, Prof Kaul said that a study by SKIMS had shown that no pregnant women were vaccinated in Kashmir. “Pregnancy is an immune-compromised state and vaccinating a pregnant woman against influenza has double benefits, for mother and for the child,” he said. He said that a young woman with eight month pregnancy recently lost life to influenza at the institute and her fetus could also not be saved.

Speaking about the influenza surveillance lab at SKIMS, Prof Kaul said that since 2010-11, 12000 samples had been tested at the lab free of cost. “By market rates, this amounts to many many crors of rupees," he said.

Prof Kaul said there was evidence from their research that Influenza also caused exacerbation of symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Indian council of medical research (ICMR) recently released Health of the Nation’s States, a comprehensive report evaluating the state-wise trends of diseases and causes of death and disability which showed that Kashmir had one of the highest burden COPD among Indian states and definitely higher than national average. He said that influenza virus has also been seen to cause viral pneumonia and doctors must consider anti viral drugs instead of antibiotics when there was a seasonality of flu.