Amid reports of rising respiratory illness, Centre asks states to review healthcare preparedness

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Amid the recent reports indicating a surge in respiratory illness in children in northern China, the center has asked all states and UTs to immediately review public health preparedness. The health ministry on Sunday said that it has decided to proactively review preparatory measures against respiratory illnesses as a matter of abundant caution.

In a letter to all states and Union territories, the Union health secretary Sudhansh Pant has advised to immediately review public health and hospital preparedness such as availability of beds, drugs and vaccines for influenza, medical oxygen, antibiotics, personal protective equipment, testing kits and reagents, functionality of oxygen plants and ventilators, and infection control practices.

The state authorities have been advised to implement the 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 states have also been asked to ensure that the trends of ILI and SARI, particularly among children and adolescents, are closely monitored by the district and state surveillance units of the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP). The state authorities have been asked to send nasal and throat swab samples of patients with SARI, particularly children and adolescents, to the Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratories for testing for respiratory pathogens.

The cumulative effect of implementation of these precautionary and proactive collaborative measures is expected to counter any potential situation and ensure the safety and well-being of the citizens, said the ministry in letter.

According to the WHO, the release of COVID-19 restrictions coinciding with the onset of winter season in addition to cyclical trend of respiratory illnesses such as mycoplasma pneumonia have led to this surge. While the WHO has sought additional information from the Chinese authorities, it is assessed that there is no cause for any alarm at the moment, the ministry said.