New Delhi, Nov 29, 2023: At least five states have put their health infrastructure on alert mode after the Centre’s directive to review readiness in view of a surge in respiratory illnesses among children in China. State governments in Rajasthan, Karnataka, Gujarat, Uttarakhand and Tamil Nadu have asked hospitals and healthcare staff to ensure preparedness to tackle patients complaining of respiratory issues.
The Karnataka health department has also asked citizens to be aware of the seasonal flu. Listing the symptoms and risk factors of seasonal flu, the advisory also mentions dos and don’ts. These include covering the mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing, frequent washing of hands, avoiding touching the face, and using masks in crowded spots.
The advisory issued by Rajasthan health department said the situation is "not worrisome at present" but the medical staff should keep vigil and prevent spread of infectious diseases. It added that adequate arrangements should be made in paediatric units and medicine departments.
In Gujarat, Health Minister Rushikesh Patel said the healthcare infrastructure created during the COVID-19 pandemic was being strengthened as a precautionary measure in view of the China situation. The state government has asked government officials to review their readiness.
The Uttarakhand government directed health officials to step up surveillance for cases of respiratory illnesses. Three districts of Uttarakhand -- Chamoli, Uttarkashi and Pithoragarh -- share borders with China.
A statement by the state health department said that while the state hasn’t reported any child pneumonia cases yet, officials have been asked to keep vigil as a precautionary measure.
This comes after the Union Health Ministry’s advisory to states, asking them to review preparedness to tackle any emerging situation. The Union Health Ministry has said the situation is not alarming, and it is closely monitoring it.
"All States and Union Territories have been advised to implement ’Operational Guidelines for Revised Surveillance Strategy in the context of COVID-19’, shared earlier this year, which provides for integrated surveillance of respiratory pathogens presenting as cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory illness (SARI)," the ministry said in a statement.
The surge in respiratory illnesses cases in northern China, particularly among children, has sparked concern four years after Covid-19 emerged in the country and went on to become a pandemic that changed the world.
Chinese health authorities, however, have said the rising infections are a mix of already known viruses and are linked to the country’s first full cold season after strict Covid curbs were lifted last December, news agency AFP reported.
Experts said that while the new situation remains unclear, there is little to suggest the cases were caused by a new virus.