Airborne diseases, winter illness increases in Valley


SRINAGAR: As cold wave conditions continue to sweep Kashmir Valley, bringing down mercury below the freezing point, the health experts on Wednesday said that the number of airborne diseases and winter illness, making children and the elderly vulnerable, are increasing.
The Valley’s major referral Chest Diseases Hhospital, SMHS and SKIMS in Srinagar, are witnessing hundreds of patients a day with majority of them being hospitalized.
Hospital authorities note children and the elderly are the most affected demographics, leading to a spike in respiratory tract infections, including pneumonia, cough, runny nose, sore throat, and body ache.
Doctors from prominent medical institutions in Kashmir have reported a substantial rise in cases of infections. Influenza experts attribute the increase to the dominance of influenza viruses, particularly H3N2 and H1N1, with H3N2 being the dominant strain and are emphasizing the importance of vaccination as the primary defence against viruses.
“Hospitals, have been conducting tests, and most results confirm influenza viruses. The influenza surge is affecting both young and elderly individuals, with severe pneumonia cases requiring oxygen and intensive care, including ventilator support,” he said.
The resurgence of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is also notable, particularly affecting young children and posing a potential threat to infants and older adults.
As the flu season intensifies, health authorities and medical professionals are urging the public to prioritise preventive measures and vaccinations to curb the spread of respiratory infections.
“The weak immune systems of the elderly and children make them vulnerable to airborne diseases and the dry, cold conditions can at times prove fatal for them as incidences of the heart attacks and brain hemorrhages are often reported in winters when temperature drops below freezing point,” health experts added.
Pulmonologists at Chest Diseases (CD) Hospital advised people of all ages to wear warm clothes and cover their faces with masks to protect themselves from airborne winter diseases.
“It is highly recommended that children not be sent outside until the afternoon, as the air droplets they inhale have the potential to cause infection. It would be better to keep them home in the evening to prevent airborne illnesses,” a senior doctor said, adding during the winter, the cold, soiled air might irritate their lungs and airways, causing wheezing and coughing.
“Vaccination against influenza and pneumonia is highly recommended for the high risk patients to keep themselves protected. Wearing warm clothes and a face mask is equally important to combat the cold conditions which otherwise leads to multiple health issues,” experts stressed.
In the winter, he said, people seal their rooms and use heating devices that release toxic gases into the air, while inadequate ventilation allows infectious organisms to flourish, which increases the risk of diseases.
These days otherhospitals in Srinagar sees an average of 250 patients every day, many of whom suffer from chronic asthma, cardiac conditions, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“We see 250 patients a day on average. Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart problems, and chronic asthma are among those seeking treatments,” said a doctor. Intense cold conditions, he said, may exacerbate a variety of illnesses, including acute lung disorders like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and acute lung infections like pneumonia.
“Early medical consultation is usually advantageous for high-risk individuals. Vaccination and flu shots are always beneficial. Individuals who have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol should take their medications on a regular basis during winters,” he told.

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