This past month, Lahore saw an unusually high number of deaths occurring from flu. Certain sections of the media reported the incidence of swine flu but the government claimed otherwise, leaving the common man befuddled.
So, what is the reality behind these deaths? What kind of fatal flu could it be? Mayo Hospital’s Additional Medical Superintendent Dr Tahir Khalil says the people “don’t need to panic.
“Swine flu virus is different from the seasonal influenza. Watery eyes, running nose, cough, cold, and headache are not necessarily symptomatic of swine flu. It is a lab test that gives you the exact picture.
“The suspected swine flu cases where these deaths occurred had all tested negative for the disease,” the MS reveals. “It means there were other causes of their deaths.
“Normally, asthma patients develop complications when they have a bout of common cold and flu. Because their breathing vein has shrunk already, their situation aggravates.”
If media reports are to go by, two swine flu ‘suspects’ were recently admitted to the Mayo Hospital. When their blood samples were sent to a laboratory in Islamabad, it transpired that they did not have the virus.
Dr Humera, who is in charge of the seasonal influenza H1N1 counter in Mayo Emergency, confirms that no suspected swine flu patient was ever taken in.
Meanwhile, the hospital has turned its dengue ward and emergency area into the influenza ward, and also set up an isolation ward for those affected by seasonal influenza, she adds.
According to the Punjab Health Department, influenza (H1N1 virus) is no swine flu. But it’s highly contagious. Over the past month or so, at least 150 patients complaining of flu were admitted to different hospitals in the province. Fifty-three of them were diagnosed with H1N1, out of which 20 lost their lives.
The doctors say that proper treatment as well as prevention is very important. Preventive measures include prophylactic vaccination (against influenza viruses) and a regular use of hand sanitiser.
High fever, flu, cough, cold, sneezing, headache, pain in joints and muscles, and a decreased appetite are the preliminary symptoms of the H1N1 virus. In case the situation gets worse, the patient is likely to catch pneumonia in which condition it becomes necessary that the patient be admitted to the hospital.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are critics who believe the government representatives — in this case, medical practitioners — are brushing the harsh fact under the carpet. Renowned health and education columnist Wasif Nagi says, “Swine flu is very much there. Setting up isolation wards for influenza patients in hospitals and the number of deaths from flu substantiate this fact.
“In the past, no one would die of flu,” he asserts. “Actually, the government is today faced with criticism on so many account that it does not want to open another front [by acknowledging the incidence of swine flu in Punjab].”
Nagi also blames the general lack of knowledge on the disease for the situation. “People in developed countries study medical research journals and routinely navigate the health websites. Not so Pakistan.
A medical specialist at a private hospital in Lahore seconds Nagi, saying that he does “not buy what the health officials say. The death of a patient from swine flu at the Nawaz Sharif Social Security Hospital, Multan Road, Tuesday last, casts doubt on the government claims. The patient was kept in the isolation ward for five days after which he succumbed to the disease.”
Instead of covering up the incident, the government should launch a vigorous awareness campaign on swine flu and educate the masses about the H1N1 virus, he says.