Viral pneumonia, if neglected, may kill more patients than dengue fever

December 05, 2019

Islamabad :Viral pneumonia may kill more patients than dengue fever in the winter season if the concerned government authorities and individuals do not give due attention to its prevention and...

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Islamabad :Viral pneumonia may kill more patients than dengue fever in the winter season if the concerned government authorities and individuals do not give due attention to its prevention and control and it remains neglected like dengue fever this year.

Most virulent strains of flu including subtypes of influenza A, H3N2, H1N1 and H1N9 along with influenza B have already been detected in a number of patients who had to undergo treatment in intensive care units of various hospitals both in public and private sectors in the federal capital. This year, the influenza outbreak seems to be hitting population earlier than expected.

Intensive Care Physician at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences Dr. Muhammad Haroon expressed this while talking to ‘The News’ on health threats that are caused by flu particularly influenza A in this region of the country and viral pneumonias, the flu strains cause.

He said well over 1200 cases of pneumonias were reported at public sector hospitals in Islamabad in last one week or so while almost all ICUs of the hospitals in the federal capital are supersaturated with patients.

It is important that in last one week, as many as six patients have been expired in a private hospital that wanted its name not to be published because of no vacancy in its ICU. Almost none of the public sector hospitals in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi has vacant ventilator supported bed at the moment mainly because of huge number of patients, said Dr. Haroon.

He, like many other health experts believe that with the further spread of flu leading to pneumonia, the situation may get worse in the days to come.

It is worth mentioning here that the allied hospitals in Rawalpindi including Holy Family Hospital, Benazir Bhutto Hospital and District Headquarters Hospital have already been facing shortage of ventilators while in BBH, over 200 cases of pneumonia have already been reported in last 10 days.

Studies reveal that viral pneumonia is an infection of lungs caused by a virus and the most common cause is the flu, though one may get viral pneumonia from the common cold and other viruses. These nasty germs usually stick to the upper part of respiratory system but the trouble starts when they get down into lungs and then the air sacs in lungs get infected and inflamed, and they fill up with fluid.

According to Dr. Haroon, pneumonia is infection of lung that can be bacterial, fungal or viral but some features are specific to viral pneumonias that need urgent interventions.

He said the H1N1 or swine flu, now known as seasonal flu outbreak of 2017-2018 killed more number of people in the year than any other disease. Equally virulent strains of viruses are prevalent in our population. The syndrome starts with fever, cough, throat rash, sinusitis and flu symptoms. Nothing happens in majority of cases as viral influenza is self-limiting and only paracetamol is enough for relieving symptoms. However, one to five per cent of flu and respiratory tract infections convert into viral pneumonia, respiratory failure, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), Sepsis and multi-organ dysfunction and death, said Dr. Haroon.

He added the warning signs of viral pneumonia herald with onset of breathlessness that rapidly develops to respiratory distress. Other warning signs are increase in breathing rate, cough with blood, drowsiness, irritability, extreme fatigue and intractable chest pain. Chest radiographs show fluffy shadows and infiltrates in both lungs. Once this develops, majority of patients need hospital admission and in many cases, ICU is required, he said.

Talking of the preventive measures to avoid pneumonia, he said one should get vaccine against flu and vaccine against pneumonia in those with pre-existing lung diseases like asthma, COPD and those with past history of pneumonia. Avoid cold and cold food and try to remain inside homes during night and early in the morning and one should cover oneself and nose properly if staying outside in extreme cold. One must report to the nearest healthcare facility immediately in case any of the warning signs occur, said Dr. Haroon.

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