Karnataka health officials have intensified a drive to create awareness about the H1N1 influenza virus in the wake of the communicable H1N1 or swine flu virus claiming 10 lives in the past six months in the state and a recent death being reported of a person from Mangalore in neighbouring Kerala.
The disease surveillance division of the health department has sounded an alert to district and private hospitals to escalate information about any suspected case of H1N1 on a daily basis. “Samples of patients suffering from pneumonia, cough, bodyache are being collected and referred to authorised centres for examination,” said Dr R T Venkatesh, deputy director of the disease surveillance unit.
The awareness and test drive for H1N1 is being done in the form of a ‘passive surveillance’ where patients have to report to health officials if they suspect they are infected by the virus.
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Over 120 cases of suspected H1N1 have been reported across the state this year with the coastal town of Udupi witnessing the bulk of them, including 35 positive cases and seven deaths. Last year the district had only four reported cases of H1N1 that were treated and cured.
Udupi district health officials claimed that the spurt in incidence and the deaths have occurred in patients whose immune systems were already compromised due to other existing ailments.
“There were pre-existing ailments among those who died — jaundice, hypertension, diabetes, hernia, breathlessness, diseases affecting the lungs or liver — due to which their bodies had reduced immunity levels,” Dr Rohini, the district surveillance officer at Udupi, said. Even victims suffering from neurological disorders, HIV/AIDS, cancer are likely to be adversely affected by H1N1, the official said. The humid conditions in the coastal region is a contributing factor for the incubation and longevity of the virus resulting in a spike in H1N1 cases In coastal Karnataka compared to other parts of the state, officials said.
In the district of Dakshina Kannada or Mangalore, 23 samples of suspected H1N1 cases have been tested this year, of which four returned positive tests but the patients were discharged after successful treatment. Three other deaths in Karnataka linked to H1N1 have been reported from Mysore region.
Health officials in Udupi and Mangalore districts are also claiming a huge shortage in nurses and field workers as well as doctors as one of the reasons the district is unable to focus on H1N1 while diverting their attention from other health activities.
While H1N1 is affecting people with compromised immunity levels it is unlikely to affect healthy persons even if they have H1N1 symptoms, health officials said. “They must submit themselves to the observation period of 24-48 hours, take rest, follow the advice of doctors and avoid external contact during the period. However, if the patients have pre-ailments, they are classified under ‘B’ and ‘C’ categories. They must immediately undergo Tamiflu course as recommended by doctors and might even require hospitalisation,” said Dr Rajesh, District Surveillance Officer, said.
Terming the virus as ‘Community Virus,’ since its source is no longer linked with foreign nations but is present around the country, a doctor said hospitals tend to house the H1N1 virus since many patients might be carriers of the virus.