ISLAMABAD: National Institute of Health (NIH) Saturday said that during the current season up till now, 686 blood samples had been tested from Islamabad and Rawalpindi for seasonal influenza in which 133 were confirmed positive.
According to an official of NIH, the institute was providing free of charge services for confirmatory specialised diagnostics while seasonal awareness and alert letters were also being circulated for awareness of doctors regarding epidemic-prone diseases including influenza.
He said that field epidemiology and disease surveillance division of NIH regularly monitored the situation and had also been issued advisories on prevention and control of Influenza-A H1N1 to all provincial and area health departments.
He said that the NIH had a state-of-art biosafety level-III lab at the federal level and had also established sentinel surveillance laboratories at seven sites across Pakistan including Lahore, Multan, Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar, Gilgit and Muzaffarabad, which provide free of charge laboratory diagnostic services for viral influenza.
The official further said that for awareness activities regarding prevention and control of influenza, the NIH conducted talk shows and seminars in major hospitals and universities and distributed health awareness messages among healthcare providers.
The national guidelines for prevention and control of influenza A-H1N1 had been developed by NIH and its updated version had been shared with all stockholders.
Rapid response teams’ training on prevention and control of the viral disease, sample collection and transportation, infection control and community awareness had already been conducted at all provincial and area headquarters.
He said that all the technical documents along with awareness material were also available at NIH website.
The official went on to say that influenza occurs all over the world, with an annual global attack rate estimated at 5–10 per cent in adults and 20–30 per cent in children. WHO declared in August 2010 that H1N1 was now in post-pandemic phase and declared both strains (H1N1, H3N2) as seasonal flu viruses, he added.
He also informed that the most effective way to prevent the disease was vaccination, adding that safe and effective vaccines were available in market at reasonable rates.
The NIH official further said that WHO recommended annual vaccination for pregnant women, children aged between 6 months to 5 years, elderly individuals (aged more than 65 years), individuals with chronic medical conditions and health-care workers.