Many people catching virus despite vaccination

LAHORE: Medical experts have suspected that the vaccine available for influenza is not working because many people are catching the virus despite getting the vaccination done, The Express Tribune has learnt. According to the Punjab government’ health department data, around 159 confirmed cases of seasonal influenza were reported in different districts of the province, while 35 people died of the disease in the past one month in Multan, Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalpur districts.

The data disclosed that in Multan, at least 106 cases of influenza have been confirmed since December 15, 2017, while 24 patients under treatment in the city’s Nishtar Hospital died. The data further stated that 17 new cases emerged in last one week in Lahore. Three patients died.

“This is the reason the department is importing 5,000 shots of vaccines on an urgent basis,” a senior medical practitioner at Jinnah Hospital told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity.

He said, “The current situation is alarming as more than 20 suspected patients were admitted to the hospitals in Lahore on January 20 and the total number of patients has reached 50 so far.”

He added that the doctors also contracted the disease while treating the patients and it seemed that the medicine provided by the health department had proved ineffective in treating the patients.

He said, “Seasonal influenza is an acute viral infection that spreads easily from one person to another and can affect people of any age group. In a moderate climate, seasonal epidemics occur mainly during winter but epidemics can occur throughout the year.”

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Doctor of Medicine Dr Amjad Islam, who runs a private clinic, said that pregnant women, children under 59 months, the elderly, individuals with chronic medical conditions (such as chronic cardiac, pulmonary, renal, metabolic, neurodevelopmental, liver or hematologic diseases) and individuals with immunosuppressive conditions (such as HIV/AIDS, receiving chemotherapy or steroids, or malignancy) are at a greater risk of contracting the disease. He said that healthcare workers are also likely to catch the virus due to increased exposure to the patients.

Islam added that influenza vaccination was the most effective way to prevent disease. He said that patients, who were not from a high-risk group, should be managed with symptomatic treatment by staying indoors in order to minimise the risk of infecting others in the community.

Meanwhile, Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department (PSHD) Secretary Ali Jan Khan, in a press release, stated that sufficient stock of vaccines of H1N1 was available in all hospitals across the province.

He said that flu filtration clinics had also been established in these hospitals. He also mentioned that a technical committee, which was formed on the instructions of the provincial chief minister, was monitoring disease surveillance report of H1NI on a daily basis. He directed the officials to not only ensure timely case response of the patients but also ensure vaccination of their contacts, high-risk group, doctors and staff of the hospitals. He further directed them to pay special attention to the awareness campaign of H1N1 to sensitise the public regarding precautionary measures.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2018.

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