Health ministry cautions public on flu outbreak

As the winter peaks and people become prone to seasonal flu, the health ministry has notified all health centers to set up surveillance and vigilance on seasonal flu outbreak.

Last week alone, the Royal Centre for Disease Control recorded at least 200 cases of Influenza Like Illness (ILI) and another 20 cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) from across the country. 

Some of the common symptoms of SARI and ILI are fever, cough, body ache, fatigue, runny nose, sore throat and shortness of breath.  

In the last week of December 2018, the center recorded 209 cases of ILI. Paro hospital reported highest ILI cases at 84, followed by Samtse hospital at 58, Punakha hospital at 44 and Damphu hospital at 23. While Trashigang hospital saw three cases, Trongsa and Samdrupjongkhar saw two and one cases respectively

In the same week, at least 16 cases of SARI were reported. Punakha hospital reported the highest SARI cases at eight, three at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital, two each cases were reported in Mongar eastern regional referral hospital and Trongsa hospital. Phuentsholing hospital also reported one SARI case. 

Department of Public Health’s programme officer Rinzin Kinga Jamtsho said that the outbreak are not a serious issue because it has been occurring every year. It is not a serious issue because it is seasonal flu (common cold) and there is nothing the public health department can do. 

He said that children under five years, elderly people above 65 years, pregnant women and immune-compromised patients such as asthma, diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, kidney diseases, HIV/AIDS and cancer patients are among the high-risk groups. “Extra attention and care needs to be rendered to them,” he said.

In a notification the health ministry issued on January 14, all health centers monitor weekly trend of SARI and ILI, start separate flu clinic for ILI patients so that they don’t mix with other patients in the hospital.

The ministry also advises health workers to isolate SARI cases and sensitizes all the health workers on respiratory and cough etiquette,hand washing and social distancing.

Health workers are advised to ask local/community leaders to report on any influenza outbreaks in their community to the nearest health center. “Your timely intervention and cooperation in this matter will help prevent outbreaks and save lives,” the notification issued states. 

Nirmala Pokhrel

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