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19 February 2009
By Nozia Sayyed

Dial the Number, Ward off Influenza
Delhi–based firm, IFI jointly launch a helpline for patients and doctors
A toll–free helpline (1800–11–0678) was launched for flu and related illnesses across India recently by one of the vaccine manufacturers from Delhi and the Influenza Foundation of India (IFI), New Delhi.

It will address various issues related to flu and its complications in the patient and inform general public about the disease. When contacted, IFI member Dr AK Prasad told DNA, “With more and more people losing valuable workdays to viral fever and children complaining of headache and cold, the helpline for flu and related conditions was launched. Since the initial time is very crucial, we are supporting the helpline to guide the patient properly within the minimum possible time.”

Dial the Number, Ward off Influenza
Prasad, a patron to the helpline, added that precious time is wasted in seeking medical help due to lack of awareness and the non–availability of treatment, which can even result in death or complications.

The main objective behind launching the flu helpline (1800–11–0678) is to create awareness among people so that they can have better access to timely medical aid anywhere in the country.

He said the children and the elderly above 50 will be urged to take special protection from the 200 odd airborne viral infections, which float in the air.

Flu is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract. While the illness may be temporary and short–lived, it is estimated to infect 5–15% Indians every year.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that annual flu epidemics cause 3–5 million severe illnesses and between 2,50,000 to 5,00,000 deaths every year.

However, IFI trustee member Dr Amarjeet Chitkara said, influenza is a very common disease and children are the most vulnerable transmitters at home and in school.

“The best way to counteract this risk is by taking appropriate preventive measures like vaccination,” he said. The vaccination against flu is a safe and effective option to reduce both healthcare costs and productivity losses associated with the illness, he said.

He also revealed that as the virus changes every year, a new vaccine is developed every year to counter the threat. Hence, the vaccination against flu is an annual affair, he said.

Talking further about the helpline, Dr. Sanjay Lalwani (Siddhant Hospital, Pune) said that since the flu virus changes constantly leading to newer compositions, chances of getting infected increase even if a vaccination is taken.

“Early vaccination can be particularly beneficial to people with low immunity and can minimise the functional complications,” he said.

The helpline (1800–11–0678) is not just intended for patients but even for doctors across the country, he said. Flu, which is at its peak during winters, shows primary symptoms like high fever and cough, said Lalwani.

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