‘H1N1 virus was more deadly than Coronavirus’

KARACHI: An interactive seminar named “CORONAVIRUS: World under Deadly Threat?” was recently organized by the Ziauddin University (ZU) to raise awareness about the disease. Dr Sara Salman, Head of the Sindh Sub-Office of the World Health Organization (WHO) chaired the seminar. Dr Nida Hussain, Pro-Chancellor, Ziauddin University, Dr Samreen Sarfaraz, Consultant, Infectious Diseases, Indus Hospital, Dr Syed Ahmed Raza Kazmi, Director Clinical (Governance & Training), Sindh Health Care Commission and Dr Muhammad Osama Rehman Khalid, Consultant, Infectious Diseases, Dr Ziauddin Hospital also attended the seminar and spoke at the occasion.

While speaking to the audience Dr Sara said, “In 2002, SARS emerged in Southern China and spread to 30 countries. In 2009, the H1N1 influenza strain emerged in Mexico and caused worldwide panic. In 2012, MERS emerged in Saudi Arabia and spread to 27 countries. In 2014, the Ebola virus broke out in three West African countries. Today, the whole world appears to be in the grip of a new deadly disease.”

“The coronavirus emerged from China. It has rapidly spread all over the world and has become a worldwide pandemic causing more than 24000 confirmed cases and has resulted in approximately 490 deaths in China. The virus has spread to 25 countries of the world,” says Dr Sara Salman.

While discussing the origin and symptoms of the coronavirus, Dr Sara said, “The novel coronavirus was identified as the source of the illness. The infection was traced to the Wuhan seafood market that also sold live animals. The disease presents with symptoms like the flu along with fever, having difficulty breathing, impaired liver and kidney function, kidney failure, severe cough, and pneumonia. The virus has an unknown incubation period.”

On the role of the WHO in Pakistan, Sara stated “we had taken major safety initiatives to control this virus by installing health information desks at airports to keep a check and balance on passengers, especially international arrivals. Isolation wards have been set up in public and private hospitals of Sindh. Notifications, dissemination of all guidelines, and SOPs have been circulated all over government and private hospitals and institutions as well.”

While talking about viral infectious diseases including influenza and the coronavirus, Dr Nida Hussain said, “We all are very well aware of the coronavirus. It has spread all over the world, and the WHO also declared it a public health emergency, but thankfully we have not received any case in Pakistan as yet. Currently, the H1N1 virus has a higher mortality rate than the coronavirus.

Dr Hussain further said, “In our communities and hospitals, people do not bother to go to hospitals and get themselves checked because of the cost of the tests. We need to create awareness about the matter. People who are more likely to get affected by viral infections include pregnant women, children under the age of 2, people with heart conditions, people with neurological conditions, anybody with a weak immune system, as well as those suffering from kidney problems.”

While giving references of previous deadly viruses, Dr Samreen Sarfaraz disclosed “The MERS Co-V had 2494 cases, 858 deaths, and a 37% mortality rate. The SARS Co-V had 8098 cases, 774 deaths, and a 10% mortality rate. Currently, we are facing the coronavirus with 24,530 confirmed cases, 493 deaths, and a 2-3% mortality rate.”

It is pertinent to mention here that the virus spreads from person-to-person contact primarily via respiratory droplets. Touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes can easily expose to the coronavirus.

Concerning prevention from coronavirus, Dr Samreen noted, “We have to take certain steps as precautionary measurements including developing an action plan, conducting a drill on dealing with suspected cases, isolating potential patients, and contacting relevant parties in the state or local health department in case of any suspected cases. Additionally, we should provide training to all hospital staff members about wearing a special mask while checking any flu or suspected coronavirus patient.”

Dr Syed Ahmed Raza Kazmi while discussing the high-risk exposure to coronavirus, said, “A person living in the same household, a person having had face-to-face contact, a person who has been in a closed environment, a healthcare worker or any person providing direct care, or laboratory workers handling coronavirus patients hare exposed to the coronavirus threat. In an aircraft, anyone sitting within two seats (in any direction) of a 2019-nCoV case, including travel companions, caretakers, and crew members serving in that section of the aircraft where the index case was seated, have a high risk of getting affected by this virus.”

Dr Muhammad Osama Rehman Khalid said “In Pakistan, we have not yet received any coronavirus case, and we pray not to receive any in the future as well because there is no vaccine available to combat this deadly virus. Corona, influenza, and swine flu all are viral infectious diseases; therefore, it can be challenging to detect the exact illness. We cannot easily differentiate them because their symptoms are almost the same, including fever, body pain, runny nose, severe cough, etc.”

Dr Osama cautioned doctors and hospital staff while treating patients with infectious diseases. He urged them that they should wear a mask and gloves, use goggles, and adopt all possible safety measures before entering the room where such patients have been kept because “prevention is always better than cure.”

-MN Report

February 8, 2020

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