Karachi sees sharp increase in viral infections due to cold wave – Pakistan

• Experts say number of patients has doubled in two weeks
• Children, people with low immunity said to be most vulnerable

KARACHI: The cold wave gripping the city for the past 10 days has severely affected people of all ages, causing a spike in patients’ number at healthcare facilities, it emerged on Saturday.

Experts told Dawn the most vulnerable among the patients were small children who could develop pneumonia and measles encephalitis as a complication, if the illness is neglected.

“Patients’ number has almost doubled over the past two weeks. Most of these cases are of viral infection, which are managed through symptomatic treatment,” said Dr Waseem Jamalvi of the Pakistan Paediatric Association.

He strictly discouraged self-medication and use of antibiotics.

According to him, the abrupt change in weather has affected a large population. Most patients are reporting with sudden onset of fever, cough, sore throat and a runny nose, “People must avoid eating out and try to stay at home especially in the evening and night when the temperature drops further,” Dr Jamalvi said.

He advised use of hot liquids especially soups and honey with black pepper that provided relief in respiratory infections.

Seasonal weather changes, he pointed out, could exacerbate allergy symptoms. “Hence, it’s important that people should avoid allergy triggers including dust as this can prolong their illness.”

Endorsing the rise in patients’ number, Dr Qaiser Sajjad, senior ear-nose-throat specialist, said he had been examining a high number of patients of all age groups reporting with co-infections.

“It seems viral but what I have found, in most cases, is that it’s a super-added bacterial infection. Therefore, I have to prescribe a course of antibiotics that provides immediate relief,” he shared.

He was of the opinion that the victims were largely people with low immunity levels, which had to do a lot with poor lifestyle and eating habits.

“The poor lifestyle is one of the key reasons behind our growing disease burden. Among other things such as consumption of junk food and inactive life, studies have shown that insufficient sleep increases risks for several diseases, besides affecting immunity,” Dr Sajjad said.

He advised that people should have their meals at the right time and go to bed early.

Token strike adds to patients’ miseries

Sources said the intense cold wave had compounded the miseries of poor patients reporting at government hospitals where healthcare providers suspend outpatient department services for two hours in protest in the morning, and senior doctors were not available.

Patients, they said, had to wait for a token in chilling weather for two hours.

“It’s so unfortunate that the staffers didn’t realise how this strike would affect small ailing children, especially newborns and infants, whose condition could deteriorate, as well as the elderly,” shared a woman at the Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi.

The experts urged the health department to take notice of the situation, resolve the problems with the strikers and issue directives to the staffers to report on time.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2023

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