Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) today said that swine flu cases are on the rise in many parts of the country but Kashmir is clueless due to lack of H1N1 testing facilities. In a statement to KNS, President DAK Dr Nisar ul Hassan said that patients in hospitals are dying undiagnosed due to non availability of diagnostic facilities for H1N1 and other influenza viruses. Many infectious diseases have similar presentations and influenza testing would solve the diagnostic dilemma for doctors. It is unethical to empirically treat a patient who is hospitalized to receive correct diagnosis based on laboratory confirmation. Critically ill patients admitted in intensive care units of tertiary care hospitals die without diagnosis due to lack of influenza testing. In a study conducted at SKIMS 30% of patients hospitalized for pneumonias had unknown etiology which could have been influenza related had the tests been done. The two hospitals of GMC and SKIMS which have been designated for conducting influenza tests have no visible facilities in place. The inflenza testing laboratory of GMC at chest disease hospital Dalgate, on which crores have been spent, is not ready yet. SKIMS virology lab is doing rapid tests instead of recommended real-time PCR assay which gives high false negative results thus leaving critically sick patients without treatment. We have no idea about the flu activity and disease burden in Kashmir as there is no lab support. We do not know the pattern of disease, dominant strain or any change in the virus due to defunct influenza surveillance lab at SKIMS which is hugely funded by CDC. According to a global analysis novel strains of influenza A are more likely to emerge in Asia and it because of lack of reporting in many regions that hinders efforts to determine where the next pandemic strain may emerge.
2015 Kashmir Despatch