Suspect flu? Visit the doctor

By Arpana Adhikari

Kathmandu, Jan. 29: Has any of your family members had symptoms of common cold with sudden high fever, headache, muscle ache, running nose, sore throat, cough, diarrhoea and vomiting? Do they also fall in the group of children, old age, persons with chronic diseases and pregnant women? Then do not wait to visit the doctor.
The symptom that seems similar to those of seasonal flu and common cold might be the cause of Influenza A (H1N1 pdm09), mistakenly known as Swine Flu. Those in this risk group could develop life threatening risks at any time.
Although most patients infected with the Influenza A (H1N1 pdm09) do not require any specific measures and are treated as normal flu cases, early recognition of the infection was crucial among the people who are in the greater risk group, said Dr. Sher Bahadur Pun, Chief Medical Officer at the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital Teku.
Reassuring that the Influenza A (H1N1 pdm09) was not fatal in all cases and most of the cases respond to simple measures, Dr. Pun said. However, those who fall in the risk groups--children below five years of age, adults over 60, pregnant women, diabetics, persons having cardiovascular diseases and other chronic diseases as well as those with weakened immune systems--have to be more careful.
“Ignoring the symptoms and taking them as manifestations of a seasonal flu can lead the patients with weak immune system to get exposed to other associated health risks. If not treated in time, the influenza can wear down your body’s defences, leaving you vulnerable to health issues like pneumonia and other organ failures and even to death,” said Dr. Pun.
Since the reporting cases of the flu are increasing in the valley, with increased hospital admissions of flu-related cases, it would be better to take precautions and visit doctors immediately after getting the suspected symptoms, said Dr. Pun.
How the virus gets transmitted?
Swine flu usually spreads during rainy and late winter season in Nepal. The people in the risk group have high chances of contracting the infection, while they are exposed to crowds for a long time and treating someone infected with flu, said Dr. Pun.
The virus can be spread from people’s hands and objects used by the infected persons and by breathing in droplets from sneezes or coughs. A normal person can get the infection by touching the mouth, nose and eyes of the contaminant, said Dr. Pun.
Dr. Pun said taking a few sensible precautions can help you stay healthy during this season.
“We must develop the habit of washing hands frequently, especially before eating, keeping your fingers away from your eyes, nose and mouth, avoiding sharing things with others and close contact with the flu-infected people.”
Vaccination is also available in Nepal against the flu, which was very effective in protecting people, mostly the risk group against the flu, he added. “However, the vaccination is not easily provided in Nepal.”
He added that like in other countries, the government first must determine flu season in Nepal and then recommend immunisation schedule.
Though the vaccine is not provided by the government, some private companies are providing the flu vaccine, said Dr. Prakash Prasad Shah, Senior Health Administrative Officer at Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD).
Sample of saliva are tested in the lab for the detection of influenza virus infection. One needs to visit the National Public Health Laboratory to diagnose the flu, said Dr. Shah.
Dr. Pun said most patients do not require any specific measure and are treated as in the normal flu cases, instead they respond to simple measures, like taking sufficient rest and taking plenty of liquids.
Considering the health condition of the patients, doctors would provide symptomatic treatment to the associate health problems, said Dr. Pun, adding that if this did not help the patients to recover, then supportive treatment would be provided.
“Some patients should be treated with anti-flu medication like Osltamivir (Tamiflu) recognising the health complications.”
Shah said cases of the Influenza A (H1N1 Pdm09) strain have been reported in the capital, however, there’s no need for alarm. 

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