Sudden spike in swine flu

By Carol Aloysius
Novel A/HINI cases ( earlier known as swine flu) in Sri Lanka are on the rise, and number of those affected could exceed the previous year’s record number, Health Ministry sources warned.
“As this is a new virus, people are still not immune to it and are thus likely to be affected to a larger degree,” Dr Sugath Peiris, Chief Epidemiologist, told The Nation yesterday.
Since the first two local cases of A1HINI made their appearance in late September this year as the second wave of pandemic influenza began sweeping across the globe, the numbers of reported cases in Sri Lanka appear to have mounted in an erratic manner according to the latest figures revealed by the epidemiology unit..

The November 27 statistics from the epidemiology unit of the Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition, reveal that the first reported cases of A1HINI under the Second Wave of Pandemic Influenza in Sri Lanka this year, numbered only two. These were reported between September 20- 26.
However from October 11 onwards, AHINI suddenly re-emerged with an explosion, when five cases reported between October 11-17, followed by 10 cases between October 18-24 and the numbers soared to 19 between October 25-31.

These numbers then took a plunge when they dipped to nine in the first week of November.
From then on, there has been a steady climb in the disease trend, peaking at 35 between the period November 8-14 , and dropping slightly to 32 in the following week ( November 15-21).
Only four cases being reported from November 22-27.
The total number of confirmed cases as of November 26 is 133, with 33 children between 1-10 being afflicted with the virus.

Those between 11-20 were the next highest group( 26), followed by the age group 31-40 years( 16) and those aged 41-50 years (10).
The least affected were over 50 years, with 1-2 confirmed cases, while none were reported from the over 70 year age group.
“As there are more young people in our population it is natural they should comprise the biggest affected group,” Dr Peiris explained.

More women (63) were afflicted by the disease than men ( 54) the ratio being 54%: 46%. District-wise the highest number of cases reported were from the Western Province- Colombo( 66) and Gampaha 13. Nuwara Eliya had 7, while Puttlam and Kandy 5 each, Matara 4, and other districts 1-2 each..
“All these cases are local transmissions,” Dr Peiris said.
Although the numbers are relatively low at present the Health Ministry has already taken necessary steps to stock up adequate medicines and vaccines for an emergency situation, should the numbers of seriously ill persons rise significantly.

Asked if any special arrangements were being made to send any infected patients to the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH), or set up separate wards for them, Dr Peiris replied in the negative.
He also advised the public not to panic and waste their money on unnecessary tests. “Earlier when the disease broke out here as well as around the globe, people panicked. But now we have realized that it is not as dangerous a disease as we thought it was. It is like a normal flu with symptoms very similar to flu, such as fever, cough and colds. Only a lab test will confirm if the patient is actually having the disease,” Dr Peiris said.

“The only reason to worry is if there is fever for over three days accompanied by severe lower respiratory tract problems such as being short of breath and difficulty in breathing. That means their lungs are affected and they can get pneumonia, and it is important they should be seen by a doctor immediately,” he added..
Novel AHINI peaked in 2009 with over 640 cases being reported and nearly 50 deaths recorded up to February this year.

AHINI is a flu like illness which spreads from human to human through secretions of nose and droplets from coughing.
The virus enters the body through the respiratory system and multiplies and attacks the respiratory tract.
Symptoms are similar to flu – fever, headaches, body aches, sore throat, colds, headaches, and occasionally vomiting. Since it is similar to flu it is difficult to differentiate it from the ordinary flu, health sources said.
The public has been advised to stay at home if they have fever for over 2-3 days, take plenty of bed rest, drink lots of fluids, and eat good nourishing food.
They should cover their faces with a clean cloth or tissue when sneezing or coughing, avoid travelling or mingling where there are crowds, and wash one’s hands regularly.