Influenza lab at SKIMS fails to serve its purpose: DAK

Excelsior Correspondent

Srinagar, Jan 23: Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) today said the influenza laboratory at Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura here that was set up for “flu surveillance” has failed in its purpose.
The DAK president, Dr Nisar-ul-Hassan said despite spending huge amount of money on it the SKIMS influenza lab has failed to serve its purpose. “The lab was hugely funded by United States Centre for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) with an aim to monitor flu activity and disease pattern in the community. It was created to determine what influenza viruses are circulating and identify the dominant strain and whether these circulating viruses match the current vaccine.
“We have no idea about the disease burden in the community. We don’t know the impact influenza is having on hospitalizations and deaths. The lab has miserably failed to achieve its goal and, in fact, has become conduit for corruption. In view of unpredictability of flu viruses, the lab was established to observe any change in circulating viruses and anticipate possible outbreak and alert public health authorities in advance for appropriate action,” he said.
Dr Nisar said it was because of failure of this lab to give early warning of H1N1 outbreak in 2015 that led to loss of a score of lives. “Importantly, it was meant for rapid detection and reporting of novel influenza virus with pandemic potential. The sloppy practices at the lab are putting the community at risk of some of the dangerous viruses they deal with. Lack of negative pressure and safety equipments put staff and patients at risk,” he said.
The DAK president said with no awareness, majority of healthcare workers and pregnant women are unvaccinated. “As winter arrives, flu attacks people as influenza viruses thrive in cold. Flu causes mild to severe disease and even death. Worldwide, flu causes 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness and 250,000 to 500,000 deaths annually,” he added.