SRINAGAR: “The official figures of 32 flu deaths so far this season are an underestimate as many flu deaths go unreported in Kashmir,” said Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Monday in a communiqué.
“These figures only provide a snapshot of the true death toll flu has taken in the valley,” said DAK President Dr Nisar ul Hassan.
“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,” he said.
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 Nisar said prompt recognition of flu and prompt treatment with anti-flu medication is 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, adding 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.”
Dr Nisar 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 Nisar.