MULTAN-The seasonal influenza (H1N1) outbreak has turned into an epidemic in Multan and killed 12 citizens so far, forcing the government to declare emergency at all hospitals on Monday.

The health authorities have warned that next 20 days are critical and the influenza vaccine has been supplied to Nishtar hospital. Health sources revealed that a total of 40 patients had been brought to different hospitals of Multan during the last one year on suspicion of seasonal influenza, out of which 23 were tested positive and 14 negative while the reports of three others are awaited. Sources further revealed that out of 23, as many as 16 patients belonged to Multan, two Lodhran, four Muzaffargarh and one Vehari. Similarly, nine deceased were from Multan, two Muzaffargarh and one Khanewal.

On the other hand, the district administration declared that emergency medical treatment arrangements for the incoming influenza (also known as Swine Flu) patients had been made at all the public hospitals. Similarly, the district administration has also issued a strict warning to all private hospitals to shift all suspected patients of the influenza to Nishtar Hospital as soon as they receive them.

Meanwhile, addressing a rally, the DC Nadir Chattha said that a massive awareness campaign had been launched to make the people aware of the disease outbreak and to save precious human lives. He said that a vaccination drive was also being launched on emergency base while the citizens were asked to adopt precautionary measures. He said that all the suspected patients of influenza received at Nishtar hospital were shifted to isolation ward within four hours after their tests. He said that the majority of the patients were over 40 years of age.

Dr Shahid Bokhari said on this occasion that every citizen would have to play his role to defeat the disease outbreak. He stressed upon the citizens to adopt all precautions, wash hands frequently and refrain from touching others.

The district focal person for epidemics Dr Ataur Rehman disclosed that the influenza vaccine is available at Nishtar Hospital and all the suspected or confirmed patients are being provided effective treatment. He said that the virus outbreak is likely to continue for next 20 days and then there would be a decline. He said that a massive campaign has been launched by the health department and efforts would continue till complete elimination of the disease.

Meanwhile, chairing a high level meeting, the Punjab Minister for Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education Kh Salman Rafiq, Minister for Primary and Secondary Healthcare Kh Imran Nazir and Secretary Health sought report from the health authorities. Kh Salman Rafiq told media on the occasion that all-out resources are being utilised to fight the disease outbreak as medicines, diagnosis kits and vaccine have been supplied to Nishtar Hospital. He said that a big awareness campaign has also been launched to make the people aware of the issue. He said that the elderly citizens, especially those suffering from any kidney, liver or heart diseases should get themselves vaccinated as soon as possible.

He said that Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif has also taken notice of the epidemic like situation and sought report from the secretary health. He said that the government stood with the people at this time of trial.