KARACHI: The federal health ministry has confirmed five cases of the H1N1 (swine flu) virus in the city.
During the last two months, five patients with the virus were admitted to the Aga Khan University Hospital. The patients complained of flu, chest infections and high fever. After their initial treatment, doctors took H1N1 tests and sent the samples to the laboratory of the National Institute of Health in Islamabad. The tests came out positive for influenza type A (H1N1). Two out of the five patients are undergoing treatment while the remaining three, after being diagnosed with the early symptoms of the virus, are undergoing the anti-viral treatment.
According to officials, the families of these patients have also been advised to take the H1N1 tests.
After the five cases were detected, Sindh Health Minister Dr Sagheer Ahmed put the provincial health department on high alert. He directed officials to collect all the necessary data regarding the H1N1 patients and ensure all medicines for the anti-viral treatment are provided. He also ordered the establishment of an Influenza Surveillance Cell and said that all patients with the symptoms of high fever, chest infection and flu should be tested for the H1N1 virus. H5N1 is the bird flu, not to be confused with this virus. The ages of the five H1N1 patients are between 21 and 48 years.
The focal person for dengue and swine flu in Sindh, Dr Shakeel A Mullick, confirmed the cases but expressed his anger at the private hospital on releasing the reports directly to the media.
Seven people had died from swine flu in the city last year. Karachi saw its first four confirmed cases of the novel H1N1 in June 2009.
H1N1 is the same strain that causes seasonal outbreaks of regular flu. But this latest version is different: although the strain may have originated in pigs, it is now a wholly human disease which can spread from person to person by coughing and sneezing.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2010.
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