Poor response to review meeting for doctors

The district health administration, on Wednesday, renewed its alert on H1N1 after three new cases, including one ante-natal case, were confirmed in the district in the past two days.

Reminding the public to follow the general guidelines on preventing the spread of the infection, the district health administration said people with various co-morbidities and those vulnerable to infection, such as ante-natal women, should be alert about H1N1.

The Health Department said that in a public health situation, all doctors should follow the official guidelines issued by the Health Ministry and not take individual decisions.

The District Medical Officer had convened a meeting of Superintendents of government hospitals in the district on Wednesday but the response was lukewarm.

“The meeting was called to review the level of awareness on H1N1 among the medical professionals and hospital preparedness. However, because of the ongoing non-cooperation by the doctors, the response was quite poor,” a senior Health official said.

The district health administration has given special instructions to junior public health nurses and Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers to take care of the ante-natal women in their locality because they represent a highly vulnerable group, easily susceptible to infection.

Early detection

Early detection and treatment being the key to containing H1N1 infection and preventing its complications from taking over, physicians have been given instructions that whenever patients with suspected H1N1 infection report to a clinic, they should be asked if there are any other family member in the high-risk group – pregnant and post-natal women, asthma and diabetes patients.

In such cases, immediate anti-viral chemo prophylaxis should be started for the family member in the high-risk group using the drug Oseltamivir.

Last year, 32 ante-natal women lost their lives to H1N1 infection in the State. Hence, the Health Department has issued a directive to all physicians to strengthen surveillance and early detection of the disease in the community and to be alert to any influenza-like illnesses in the ante-natal women.

As per Central guidelines, those with mild influenza symptoms should stay home and take rest. In the case of pregnant women, the guidelines suggest an immediate course of Oseltamivir even if the flu symptoms are mild. The drug has been proven safe for use during pregnancy, according to official information.

Pregnant women at risk

Last year, the district health administration took certain pro-active steps for the early detection and monitoring of flu-like illnesses in pregnant women. As every ASHA is assigned a specific number of houses in a locality, these women were given the task of keeping track of influenza-like illnesses among pregnant women.

Every ante-natal case gets an automatic entry into ASHA's register. Hence, it is easier to communicate directly to pregnant women or new mothers to approach the nearest primary health centre if they develop mild flu symptoms or if any other member in their family has developed flu.

Last season, ASHAs tracked some 14,000 pregnant women in the district. About 100 cases with mild fever or flu were detected sufficiently early and started on prophylaxis treatment with Oseltamivir, thus minimising the risk of H1N1.

Health officials said Oseltamivir was available free of cost in all government facilities, right from the primary health centres. Hospitals had been asked to strengthen their infection control protocols within the institutions as a general precaution.