Several states, including Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Haryana, and Tamil Nadu, have put their healthcare infrastructure on alert after the Centre’s directive to review preparedness in view of a surge in respiratory illnesses, especially among children, in China.
The Karnataka Health Department also issued an advisory for citizens to be aware of the seasonal flu in regard to the illnesses. According to it, seasonal flu is an infectious disease that typically lasts five to seven days and is known for its low morbidity and mortality rates.
However, it poses a higher risk to infants, the elderly, pregnant women, the immunocompromised, and those on long-term medications such as steroids, who may require hospitalisation. The symptoms include fever, chills, malaise, loss of appetite, myalgia, nausea, sneezing, and a dry cough that can last up to three weeks in high-risk groups.
Rajasthan's medical and health department advised its staff to stay vigilant and form rapid response teams. In its advisory, the state's health department asked officials concerned to prepare an action plan for the prevention and treatment of the disease.
Additional Chief Secretary of the Rajasthan Health Department, Shubhra Singh, while addressing officials through video conference, said the situation is "not worrisome at present" but the medical staff should work with full vigilance for surveillance and prevention of infectious diseases across the state, a statement said. Singh directed officials to prepare an action plan in three days for the prevention and treatment of this disease. She asked them to appoint a nodal officer at the district and medical college levels and to form rapid response teams at the division and district levels.
Uttarakhand Health Secretary Dr R Rajesh Kumar has issued guidelines in this regard. He asked medical teams to monitor symptoms of pneumonia and influenza in children. Three districts of Uttarakhand — Chamoli, Uttarkashi and Pithoragarh — share borders with China.
The Gujarat government also issued a circular, in which all hospitals were ordered to remain on alert. Doctor Rakesh Joshi, Superintendent of Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, said state-run hospitals have once again started preparations, keeping in mind the mysterious virus spreading in China.
Tamil Nadu Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine has alerted the health department to step up surveillance for respiratory illnesses in the state. In addition to enhancing disease surveillance, the health department has also been asked to strengthen the facilities to manage the patients.
The Haryana health department has put out a directive, stressing that any “clustering of unusual respiratory illness” in public or private hospitals must be reported immediately.
Medical colleges and hospitals, including private facilities, have been requested to report cases of severe acute respiratory illness, acute respiratory illness or influenza-like illness in the IDSP-IHIP portal.
Directorate of Health and Family Welfare Services in Puducherry has also advised everyone to strictly follow the practice of wearing a face mask in public places. According to the Puducherry health department, as per the current situation and available data, there is no abnormal increase in respiratory diseases
People with chronic diseases are also advised to approach the nearest health facility if they suffer from symptoms such as fever, runny nose, cough and difficulty breathing.
The developments come after the Centre issued an advisory to states and Union territories urging them to immediately review public health and hospital preparedness measures.
The Union Health Ministry in its advisory on Sunday said that currently, the situation is not that alarming, adding that it is closely monitoring the same.
"In view of the recent reports indicating a surge in respiratory illness in children in northern China in recent weeks, the Union Health Ministry has proactively decided to review the preparedness measures against respiratory illnesses, as a matter of abundant caution. This is noted to be important in view of the ongoing influenza and winter season that results in an increase in respiratory illness cases. The government of India is closely monitoring the situation and indicated that there is no need for any alarm," the ministry said.
Union Health Secretary has also written a letter to the states and UTs advising them to immediately review public health and hospital preparedness measures.
"All States and Union Territories have been advised to implement 'Operational Guidelines for Revised Surveillance Strategy in the context of Covid', shared earlier this year, which provides for integrated surveillance of respiratory pathogens presenting as cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory illness (SARI)," the Union Health Ministry's letter said.
(With inputs from Shilpa Nair and Sagay Raj)