After Centre's flagging, states on alert following respiratory infections in China

New Delhi, November 29 (IANS): Days after the Union Health Ministry asked all states and union territories (UT) to implement ‘Operational Guidelines for Revised Surveillance Strategy in the context of Covid-19’ which provides for integrated surveillance of respiratory pathogens presenting as cases of influenza like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory illness (SARI) among children in China, at least six states have put their health infrastructure on alert mode.

The state governments of Rajasthan, Karnataka, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Tamil Nadu have asked its hospitals and healthcare staff to ensure preparedness to tackle patients complaining of respiratory issues.

The Karnataka health department has also asked citizens to be aware of the seasonal flu.

Listing the symptoms and risk factors of seasonal flu, the advisory also mentions dos and don'ts, which include covering the mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing; frequent washing of hands; avoid touching the face; and using masks in crowded spots.

In its advisory, the Rajasthan health department said the situation is "not worrisome at present" but the medical staff should keep vigil and prevent spread of infectious diseases.

It also said that adequate arrangements should be made in paediatric units and medicine departments.

Similarly, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu has advised for full preparation.

The developments came a day after a letter by Union Health Secretary sent to states and UTs on Sunday, advised to immediately review public health and hospital preparedness measures viz. availability of HR hospital beds, drugs and vaccines for influenza, medical oxygen, antibiotics, personal protective equipment, testing kits and reagents, functionality of oxygen plants and ventilators, infection control practices in health facilities

The Union Health Ministry on Sunday said that all states and UT have been advised to implement ‘Operational Guidelines for Revised Surveillance Strategy in the context of Covid-19’, shared earlier this year.

They were also asked to ensure that the trends of ILI/SARI should be closely monitored by the district and state surveillance units of Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP), particularly of children and adolescents.

The data of ILI or SARI is required to be uploaded on IDSP-IHIP portal particularly from the public health institutions including medical college hospitals.

States have also beem asked to send nasal and throat swab samples of patients with SARI, particularly of children and adolescents, to Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratories (VRDL) for testing for respiratory pathogens,.

The cumulative effect of implementation of these precautionary and proactive collaborative measures is expected to counter any potential situation and ensure the safety and well-being of the citizens, the Ministry said.

It said that recently, information shared by WHO has indicated an increase in respiratory illness in northern parts of China.

"This is predominantly attributed to usual causes like Influenza, Mycoplasma pneumonia, SARS-CoV-2 etc.

As per the WHO, the release of Covid-19 restrictions coinciding with the onset of winter season in addition to cyclical trend of respiratory illnesses such as Mycoplasma pneumonia have led to this surge.

"While WHO has sought additional information from Chinese authorities, it is assessed that there is no cause for any alarm at the moment," the Ministry had added.