MULTAN: The seasonal influenza (H1N1) outbreak has turned into an epidemic in Southern Punjab cities and killed 18 citizens so far since December last, while the Punjab government has declared emergency in all hospitals after the situation entered into critical dimension.
Families of victims complained that no vaccination counter could be established at Nishtar Hospital for public vaccination due to lack of resources. Health officials said that only screening counters have been established while facility of vaccination for public was not available.
“We have established only screening counters of influenza instead vaccination counters. The public should vaccine privately”, Seasonal Influenza focal person Dr Attaur Rehman told The News on Tuesday.
The immediate cause of spread of Seasonal Influenza could not be established yet. The Nishtar Hospital doctors of medicine say that the disease is transferred man to man and the research was in progress to establish cause of its spread.
Statistics available with health department says that total 56 suspects have reported in southern Punjab districts from December to onward including 33 suspects reported in Multan, two in Dera Ghazi Khan, five in Khanewal, six in Muzaffargarh, three in Vehari, one in Toba Tek Singh, three in Lodhran, one in Rajanpur and two in Layyah.
Of the total 28 influenza suspects, patients declared positive 23 negative and laboratory test reports are awaited for five patients. Twelve influenza positive suspects died at hospitals while six died with negative test results in southern Punjab’s nine hospitals.
The district-wise break up says nine positive and one negative influenza suspects died in Multan. One influenza negative died in Dera Ghazi Khan and three died in Khanewal. In Muzaffargarh district, two influenza positive died while in Vehari one positive and one negative died. No deaths have been reported in Toba Tek Singh, Rajanpur, Layyah and Lodhran.
The official statistics have indicated that Multan ranks at top where maximum influenza suspects reported followed by Muzaffargarh, Vehari and Khanewal.
A special team of World Health Organization (WHO) reached at Multan to investigate the outbreak of Swine Flu. While Punjab Minister for Primary and Secondary Health Imran Nazir along with Secretary Health Syed Najam Shah and Director General Health Akhtar Rasheed reached Multan, they visited the Nishtar Hospital there.
The health authorities have warned that next 20 days are critical and the influenza vaccine has been supplied to Nishtar Hospital. Health sources revealed that a total of 40 patients had been brought to different hospitals of Multan during the last one year on suspicion of seasonal influenza, out of which 23 were tested positive and 14 negative while the reports of three others are awaited. Sources further revealed that out of 23, as many as 16 patients belonged to Multan, two Lodhran, four Muzaffargarh and one Vehari. Similarly, nine deceased were from Multan, two Muzaffargarh and one Khanewal.
On the other hand, the district administration declared that emergency medical treatment arrangements for the likely influenza (also known as Swine Flu) patients had been made at all the public hospitals. Similarly, the district administration has also issued a strict warning to all private hospitals to shift all suspect patients of influenza to Nishtar Hospital as soon as they receive them.
Meanwhile, addressing a rally, the DC Nadir Chattha said that a massive awareness campaign had been launched to make the people aware of the disease outbreak and to save precious human lives. He said that a vaccination drive was also being launched on emergency basis while the citizens were asked to adopt precautionary measures. He said that all the suspect patients of influenza received at Nishtar Hospital were shifted to isolation ward within four hours after their tests. He said that the majority of the patients were over 40 years of age.
Dr Shahid Bokhari said on this occasion that every citizen would have to play his role to defeat the disease outbreak. He stressed upon the citizens to adopt all precautions, wash hands frequently and refrain from touching others.
The district focal person for epidemics Dr Ataur Rehman disclosed that the influenza vaccine is available at Nishtar Hospital and all the suspected or confirmed patients are being provided effective treatment. He said that the virus outbreak is likely to continue for next 20 days and then there would be a decline. He said that a massive campaign has been launched by the health department and efforts would continue till complete elimination of the disease.
Meanwhile, chairing a high-level meeting, the Punjab Minister for Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education Kh Salman Rafiq, Minister for Primary and Secondary Healthcare Kh Imran Nazir and Secretary Health sought report from the health authorities. Kh Salman Rafiq told media on the occasion that all-out resources are being utilised to fight the disease outbreak as medicines, diagnosis kits and vaccine have been supplied to Nishtar Hospital. He said that a big awareness campaign has also been launched to make the people aware of the issue. He said that the elderly citizens, especially those suffering from any kidney, liver or heart diseases should get themselves vaccinated as soon as possible.
He said that Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif has also taken notice of the epidemic like situation and sought report from the secretary health. He said that the government stood with the people at this time of trial.