Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) today cautioned the public against possible H1N1 outbreak in valley in view of recent uptick in the number of H1N1 cases. President DAK and H1N1 expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan said that the recent spike in H1N1 cases and deaths in states of Maharashtra and Rajasthan has sounded alarm bells in Kashmir. During previous flu season, health authorities in Kashmir ignored H1N1 outbreak alert which resulted in spread of disease and loss of precious lives. The unpredictability and changing behaviour of the virus makes it difficult to assess the timing, severity and length of the outbreak. In a study published in Cell Host and Microbe, 2014 Indian H1N1 virus has undergone mutation that possibly made the virus more virulent and contagious and might also allow it to elude the existing flu shots that cover 2009 pandemic strain. These mutations might explain why the current outbreak which should have faded with the onset of warmer weather continues. In February 2015 H1N1 outbreak, Kashmir witnessed aggressive behaviour of the virus which was responsible for high hospitalizations and deaths. SKIMS research lab failed in surveillance and no effort was made to observe any change in the virus and find out whether possible drifted strain is matching current vaccine. Kashmir is sitting on thorns of yet another H1N1 outbreak and there is no better time for health authorities than now to act. Vaccination is the single best way to protect people from flu and even if the virus has changed, vaccine can still protect people because of cross protection. Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 2015-2016 flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and old and people should ideally get vaccinated before flu season begins. Children younger than 6 months are at higher risk of serious flu complications but are too young to get flu vaccine, so it is mandatory for caregivers of these infants to get vaccine. If the child has received two or more total doses of flu vaccine before July 01, 2015, then the child needs one dose of 2015-2016 influenza vaccine and if the child has not, the child should receive two doses.
2015 Kashmir Despatch