Health officials warn mothers-to-be and breast-feeding mothers, asthmatic, diabetic and hypertension patients to avoid participating in gatherings during the festive season as a precaution against contracting the A/H1N1 influenza virus.
Along with them children below two years of age and those above 65, those suffering from renal problems, cardiac diseases, neurological conditions and those showing symptoms of pneumonia should avoid crowds in the coming days.
According to the Health Ministry 35 deaths and 518 confirmed cases have been reported. “In the coming days there will be more get-togethers and parties where crowds gather. This is not a healthy condition for those who are in the high risk group, especially pregnant women. There are a huge number of unconfirmed influenza patients at large who can possibly spread the virus”, Dr.Risintha Premaratna, epidemiologist attached to the Epidemiology Unit of the Health Ministry said.
He said that there was a higher death rate among pregnant women who contracted the A H1N1 influenza. “Pregnant women showing respiratory symptoms are 4-5 times more at risk than others. Influenza in pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes”, he said.
He said that most persons who are up throughout the night consuming liquor would have their immune levels affected and therefore such persons who have any complications should avoid large crowds.
Dr. Premaratne said that as large gatherings are inevitable, an increase in the number of A H1N1 cases would be seen in the first weeks of January.
According to him, lack of hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette as well as lack of use of personal protective equipment among Sri Lankans may lead to an increase in the flu.
“We request those who are having flu symptoms and are advised to wear a mask by a medical professional, to do so. This way they can stop spreading the disease to others,” he said.
A suspected case is identified with fever and influenza-like illness (cough, sore throat, shortness of breath) to pneumonia,while diarrhoea and vomiting may be present in children.
Danger signs among adults are severe or persistent vomiting, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, symptoms improving in return with fever and worse cough.
If a child is suffering from severe or persistent vomiting, reduced fluid intake, irritability and symptoms improving in return with fever and worse cough, it is important to seek immediate medical treatment.