More labs to cope with viral diseases in Sindh needed


KARACHI: The establishment of Sentinel Influenza Surveillance Laboratory at Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) is not enough to cater the needs of Sindh population and there is an urgent need to set up such laboratories at regional level to provide better treatment facilities to patients of swine flu, bird-flu, Congo fever and other viral diseases.
Secretary General Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) Centre Dr Mirza Ali Azhar on Saturday said just one influenza laboratory was not enough for whole Sindh province and the government should establish a few more laboratories in the province at regional level to facilitate people and also to avert any possible outbreak of diseases like swine flu in future.
He informed although a private hospital in Karachi has the swine flu testing facility, but poor people could not afford its very high charges.
He suggested the government to establish blood sample collection points at district level in interior Sindh and town level in Karachi to control possible outbreak of viral disease at early stages and facilitate poor patients.
National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad has issued 29th seasonal awareness and alert letter (SAAL) for epidemic prone infectious diseases in Pakistan.
Executive Director NIH Dr Birjees Mazher Kazi in a circular to all concerned in the country said the federal, provincial and district health departments as well as other stakeholders need to take pre-emptive measures against communicable diseases put on High Alert including CCHF, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, and gastroenteritis (acute) as well as the vaccine preventable childhood diseases like measles, pertussis and poliomyelitis and also the likely occurrence of Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) cases.
Dr Kazi said moreover, strict epidemiological vigilance also needed to be exercised nationally for the prevention and control of indigenous infections with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) Corona Virus (reported in Arabian Peninsula), and influenza-A H7N9 and H10N8 (circulating in China).
He emphasised that the emergence and outbreak potential of various communicable/infectious diseases has direct relationship with weather/temperature changes and added that SAAL is regularly published and widely disseminated to all stakeholders by the NIH based on the analysis of the most recent disease data sources available in the country.
Dr Kazi said in order to keep track of the situation, the relevant health departments and other stakeholders were requested to keep this Institute updated on the public health measures being initiated in respective areas along with timely notification of associated alerts and outbreaks.
Special Secretary Health Sindh Dr Mansoor Abbas Rizvi when contacted told PPI the provincial government was well aware of developing situation and has already issued necessary precautionary instruction to all district level healthcare officers.
He said health department has issued necessary directives to authorities to avert any untoward situation in future after recent reporting of swine flu cases in Multan city. He said influenza laboratory was established in Sindh three year ago to provide better treatment to patients suffering from swine flu, bird-flu and other viral diseases. The influenza laboratory at CHK was linked with National Influenza Surveillance Laboratory Islamabad.
He said influenza laboratory was established to ensure swift provision of medical treatment to the patients, as all required equipment and diagnosis kits have been made available at laboratory. He said instructions have been issued to district level authorities that samples of suspected patients should be sent to this influenza laboratory for confirmation on suspicion of being infected with swine flu and such other infections. 

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