Srinagar, Feb 27: Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Tuesday alleged that the official figures of 32 swine flu deaths so far this season are underestimated as many mortality due to H1N1 virus go unreported in the valley.
“These figures only provide a snapshot of the true death toll flu has taken in the valley,” DAK President Dr Nisar-ul-Hassan said.
He said most people who die from flu are not tested for flu or they seek medical care later in their illness when flu can no longer be detected.
The DAK President said while elderly people have the highest rates for hospitalization and death, they are not tested for flu in hospitals. “Older patients don’t develop typical flu symptoms. In them, feeling weak or confused may be the only sign of having the flu,” he informed.
“When patients lack classic signs, health professionals don’t think of the diagnosis. This means older patients go undiagnosed and untreated.” Dr Hassan said, adding prompt recognition of flu and treatment with anti-flu medication is the key to reducing the chances of serious illness and death.
“More education is needed among health care providers about the variability in symptoms of flu in different populations so that during flu season, they think of the illness more frequently, even when a patient doesn’t have classic signs,” he added.
Dr Hassan said many flu deaths are hidden among other diseases. “For example, if a person with diabetes dies of flu, he or she will be counted as having died of diabetes.”
Many patients with heart or lung disease die of flu, but their death is wrongly attributed to their underlying condition,” he said.
He said some commonly used tests to diagnose flu in clinical settings misdiagnose many patients. “The rapid diagnostic tests used in our hospitals to diagnose these viruses are not sensitive and provide false negative result,” he said
“Clinicians should use molecular tests for diagnosing flu instead of rapid tests which miss many cases of flu,” advised Dr Hassan.