Fog grips Kashmir; air-borne diseases on rise

Srinagar NOV 20: With morning fog and cold waves gripping Kashmir, airborne diseases are on the rise leading to a surge in respiratory and eye problems.

A toxic haze could be witnessed in the morning hours as the minimum temperature in the valley dipped below the freezing point at several places, including Srinagar city last night. The air pollution levels have also increased.

An official of J&K Pollution Control Board asked people not to burn the leaves and crop stubble but instead compost it. “Leaves are falling down and during harvesting season farmers are also burning stubble which increases the air pollution,” he added.

Doctors say there is an increase in airborne diseases with the deteriorating air quality. “There is a surge in flu cases in Kashmir. When winter arrives the respiratory virus gets activated,” Dr Nisar Ul Hassan of Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar said.

Dr Hassan, who is also President Doctors Association of Kashmir, attributes the increase to the dominance of influenza viruses, particularly H3N2 and H1N1, with H3N2 being the dominant strain.

Dr Hassan underscored the significance of vaccination as the primary defence against viruses. He mentioned that hospitals, including SMHS, are actively conducting tests, and the majority of results indicate influenza viruses. “The surge in influenza is impacting individuals across age groups, leading to severe pneumonia cases that necessitate oxygen and intensive care, including ventilator support,” he added.

Flu shots are doses of a vaccine that can help protect against influenza, including strains like H1N1. It is widely recognized that getting annual flu shots is the most effective defence against contracting the infection, particularly during the winter months in the cold region of Kashmir, which is susceptible to H1N1 outbreaks.

Around 10,000 people die in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) every year mostly due to winter months due to diseases attributable to air pollution.

A senior doctor at a government hospital in Srinagar said air quality in Kashmir has been constantly deteriorating for the past few years due to the increasing number of vehicles, constructions, brick kilns, cement and other factories which emit pollutants and significantly pollute the air. “The pollution hits dangerous levels during winter months due to elevated levels of biofuel emission from the domestic sector,” he added.

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