Sunday, January 23, 2011

Spike in numbers falling ill here


PHOTO: Dragon Arum, The Dragon and Lucifer

UNUSUALLY large numbers of people are falling ill with sore throats, the common cold, fever and diarrhoea.

Last week, polyclinics saw more than 20,000 patients with such problems – an indication that the numbers have passed the epidemic threshold and the illnesses are now spreading rapidly in the community.

Polyclinics see roughly 20 per cent of primary-care patients, so the Ministry of Health (MOH) uses their patient numbers to gauge the level of infectious illnesses in the country.

PHOTO: Dragon Arum with three spikes

When the numbers at the polyclinics top 17,032 cases a week in the case of acute respiratory infections (ARI), it is severe enough to be classified as an epidemic.

Last week, 18,377 patients turned up at polyclinics with ARI, a term used to cover a range of viral infections, such as the common cold, influenza, bronchitis and pneumonia.

This is almost 1,000 more cases a day than the norm. In fact, the number of such patients at the polyclinics jumped from 2,842 a day the previous week to 3,341 a day last week.

PHOTO: Dragon Arum, two flowers open at the same time and could smell that unpleasant memorable aroma

While January is an annual peak season for respiratory infections, the number this year is about 10 per cent more than that in the same period last year.

MOH figures show that only about 1 per cent of patients with ARI had influenza. Among flu patients, four in five had the mild, 2009 pandemic H1N1 bug.

An MOH spokesman said: “While most people recover with rest and treatment, influenza can result in pneumonia requiring hospitalisation or even lead to death. Very young children, the elderly and patients with chronic illnesses should vaccinate against the flu every year.

PHOTO: All parts of the plant are poisonous. And yet it's one of those plants which, despite being so poisonous, also yields the drug digitalis which is used to treat heart complaints - a treatment first described as long ago as 1785.

According to the MOH, polyclinics saw 2,833 diarrhoea cases last week, slightly over the 2,696 epidemic threshold. But the spokesman said MOH has “not identified any large outbreak or other contributing factors for the increased incidence of diarrhoeal illnesses”.

PHOTO: Foxgloves in the wild and in cultivation and is the result of a mutation (Mutant flower). It's called a peloric flower.