Andhra Pradesh

Virulent strains not new to Seema

There has been a pattern to the outbreaks, say doctors

Handling outbreaks of upper and lower respiratory diseases is not new to the Rayalaseema region.

In Anantapur and Kurnool districts, Swine Flu (H1N1) cases were reported in 2010, 2015 and again in 2018, leading to fatalities. There has been a pattern to the outbreaks — it was noticed that there was a gap of three to five years between each outbreak.

Doctors point to climate change as a reason behind the lull between each outbreak. "The viruses take the help of sudden changes in the weather to turn virulent and attack humans. This cycle repeats itself over a period of two, three or five years with virulent strains emerging out of lakhs of mutations during this period," said doctors.

Currently, the Health Department is not only concentrating on novel-Coronavirus (nCoV) of Chinese origin, but also on any new strains that would have mutated locally due to unusual weather conditions within the country and in Andhra Pradesh. Surveillance of people with similar symptoms is being done.

The first suspected case of nCoV came from Visakhapatnam — a person who had an extensive travel history. Thankfully, the person tested negative for nCoV after extensive tests, but will be kept under surveillance for 28 days to fully rule out the possibility of contracting the virus.

Kurnool district witnessed 12 deaths in 2018 due to H1N1, and over 30 persons tested positive for the disease by November 2018. However, some of those cases were contributed by Anantapur district too as the Anantapur Government General Hospital did not have a testing laboratory till December 2018. The Rapid Test Lab was operationalised in January 2019, and a month before that, a Special Isolation Ward was set up on the Anantapur GGH premises on the second floor of the Chest Ward. Kurnool GGH, which had a testing facility, operationalised a Special Ward.

Risk groups on watch

The Health Department is now keeping a close watch on risk groups all over the district, beginning with administering vaccines to nurses/hospital staff, and displaying information about nCoV at all Primary Health Centres. In a couple of days, the IEC method would be used for improving awareness among the general public on the nCoV.

All doctors and nurses have been sensitised about nCoV and information boards would be set up in Telugu at all PHCs and public places, with Anantapur district alone readying about one lakh posters.

Every Friday, 40 to 70 pregnant women come to the PHCs for regular check-ups. Doctors there are taking the opportunity to drive home messages about H1N1 and nCoV as pregnant women form a risk group. Every Wednesday, it is the turn of mothers to read out the contents of the pamphlets to those waiting to get their children immunised. In addition to these, every morning, PHC doctors supervise reading out of preventive measures for H1N1, or sunstroke. Now, it has been made mandatory to make patients read up on nCoV and then initiate discussions with doctors to clarify any doubts.

The addresses and phone numbers of all students/doctors currently living in China have been obtained and they are now being sensitised. Till a suspected case is found, the strategy would be to promote personal hygiene and coughing etiquette to ensure nCoV or H1N1 does not spread, Dr. Anil Kumar said.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 7:37:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/virulent-strains-not-new-to-seema/article30719551.ece

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