ISLAMABAD: Swine flu has no existence in the country rather seasonal influenza was the reason behind the 17 deaths reported this year.
State Minister for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar categorically stated it during a press conference here on Tuesday.
Flanked by an official of World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Quamrul Hasan, she said Pakistan is hit by a strain of seasonal influenza which is termed as A/H1N1.
She told that a total of 350 samples from across Pakistan have been tested at National Institute of Health (NIH) for the present strain of influenza affecting the country.
110 persons were tested positive for the disease and 15 deaths were reported from Punjab, one from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one from Islamabad. In November and December, 11 deaths were reported.
She said most deaths were reported among persons with multiple diseases.
The flu is mostly affecting elderly, pregnant women and children and those having acute chronic health problems.
While clarifying the confusion in media and public, she said in June 2009, WHO declared the strain of swine origin H1NI as a pandemic virus.
As the 2009 virus contained genetic material from pigs, it was often called ‘swine flu’ by the public and media. This novel virus spread worldwide and caused about 17,000 deaths by the start of 2010, she recalled.
On August 10, 2010, the World Health Organization declared the H1N1 influenza pandemic over, saying worldwide flu activity had returned to typical seasonal patterns.
The minister said the present strain of virus has been in circulation in the human population and is termed as influenza A/H1N1 in order to differentiate it from the previous seasonal viruses circulating in humans before the swine flu pandemic.
The present virus is designated as seasonal influenza virus and continues to circulate in different parts of the world causing variable levels of disease and outbreaks, she said adding the virulence and severity of this virus now is similar to other flu viruses and has no potential of becoming a pandemic.
She said it is mistakenly reported that the flu has no cure as medicine for it is widely available in the market and provinces also have their stocks.
According to NIH, antiviral drugs (Oseltamivir) can make illness milder and shorten the time of sickness. It works best if dose is started within 72 hours of start of illness.
Saira said NIH in its journal is periodically issuing alerts about diseases informing about areas where outbreak is occurring.
To prevent spread of flu, people who are ill should cover their mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing and wash their hands frequently and keep some distance from healthy people as much as possible.
Most of the people with influenza H1N1 experience mild illness and recover fully without treatment.
The minister said NIH, designated as National Influenza Centre (NIC) since 1980s is providing free of charge diagnostic facilities to the public.
A laboratory based influenza surveillance network with seven sites is functioning and providing molecular diagnostic facilities.
She said that the ministry is working closely with WHO for any regional concerns and for ensuring provision of medicines.