Islamabad-Long dry spell in the federal city has increased the number of patients suffering with seasonal viral and bacterial infections, The Nation learned on Monday. Government hospitals are catering to a large number of patients including underage children suffering with seasonal flu, fever and respiratory problems. The major government hospitals of the city including Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) and Federal Government Services Hospital (FGSH) Polyclinic have observed a surge in patients visiting the hospitals. Officials from the hospital informed The Nation that the influx of patients in emergencies and Outdoor Patient Department (OPD) has increased nearly 15 percent than the routine amount of daily patients. Officials also said that majority of the patients include children below the age of five who are suffering largely from seasonal flu. Spokesperson PIMS Dr Waseem Khawaja said that since last week the hospital emergency and OPD has noted increase in the number of patients. He said that 2500 patients were examined in last the five days at the ENT and general medicine department, and majority of them were children.  He added that majority of the patients are suffering with seasonal flu, throat infection, chest infection, dry cough and other diseases. Dr Waseem also said that one of the major reasons behind the increase in patients of seasonal diseases is the amount of dust in the air. He said that dust is causing respiratory problems among residents of the city especially in children. He further said that majority of the patients visiting PIMS are from rural areas because the Basic Health Units (BHU) health structure is not comparatively strong. Dr Waseem said that though the hospital has enough stock of medicines for the patients, but precautionary measures by the residents of the city are required in this season. He advised that the patients must include soup in their diet plan and complete the antibiotic course prescribed by their doctor. Meanwhile, spokesperson Polyclinic hospital Dr Shareef Astori also said that the rush of patients with ENT diseases, cough and chest infection has increased in the hospital. He said daily 100 patients of seasonal infections are being examined in emergency and OPD of the hospital. He said that the strength of the patients suffering with seasonal diseases has increased due to the changing weather. He added that mostly school going children are falling sick in this season. He advised the public to avoid using heaters in this season. He added that the surge in patients will continue until the first rain of the winter season occurs.

Earlier, National Institute of Health (NIH) also issued an advisory to all health departments of the country regarding enhanced influenza viruses activity expected in South Asia including Pakistan. NIH said that all health professionals have been advised to remain vigilant to detect any suspected Influenza like Illness and Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) cases. Influenza (seasonal flu) is usually a self-limiting disease and everyone doesn’t need antiviral treatment and diagnostic tests. It can spread from person-to-person through coughing or sneezing or can contaminate hands or other surfaces. Patients with chronic diseases pregnant women, elderly people, children under 5 years are at higher risk of developing severe or complicated disease and needs to be tested and treated with specific antiviral medications.

According to the advisory, vaccination is the most effective way to prevent infection. WHO recommends seasonal influenza vaccination for pregnant women (highest priority), children aged 6-59 months, elderly people, individuals with chronic medical conditions and health-care workers.

The advisory also emphasised on simple preventive measures like hand washing, use of mask, coughing etiquettes and annual vaccination can limit the spread. It is highlighted in the advisory that Field Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Division of NIH, regularly monitors the situation and has also issued Seasonal Awareness and Alert Letters (SAAL) for awareness of doctors regarding epidemic prone diseases including Influenza.