Cold days and poor preventive care lead to more influenza

By B.Ichinkhorloo

“No money left,” a father sadly told his child by phone, looking gloomy while he hurriedly descended the hospital’s stairs. After the Lunar New Year, we naturally expect milder weather, which is a big deal for many. Yet cold, windy winter weather has been reluctant to leave so soon. Severe flu outbreaks have reached wide numbers of children, and parents, school administrators, and hospitals are extremely anxious about public health and costs for care are piling up.
Panic hits parents when a virus attacks their young children, “I cannot handle my child’s instant sickness after a minor cold, its exhausting and frightening,” a mother complained. Like her, many parents worry about their children’s health.
Children take sick leave often and social workers have mentioned that absences have increased lately, and still, children with face masks appear in every class. Pharmacies are also busy with customers with prescriptions. Pills are expensive, and although many parents and adults try to buy what they are prescribed, some parents cannot afford to buy effective medicines. One customer shared his frustration, saying that during the holidays his family spent all their money, and then their youngest child got sick. He said medicines are insanely expensive to buy often, which puts a burden on his family.
Flocks of people who seek help overwhelm state hospitals across the city. Hospitals are now crowded with patients day after day. A lack of beds and rooms has been a constant source of worry for hospitals. Health officers say that usually flu outbreaks happen in November and December, but this year flu season has been extended due to extreme cold in recent months. Since the Lunar New Year holiday, more and more children are being hospitalized. The city’s ambulance call centers in each district have been receiving 50 to 60 calls daily since the flu season started in November. During normal times, the ambulance centers receive an average of 20 calls regarding children.
Not only are children suffering from the flu, but also adults and the elderly.
We visited a couple of healthcare centers in Khan-Uul District, starting from family clinics serving khoroos to the district’s hospital, to see what  current conditions are like. The district has twelve public schools  and an equal number of daycares, and is one of the most densely populated areas in Ulaanbaatar.
Khan-Uul District’s hospital doors open to a penetrating smell of medicine and antiseptic combined. The second floor hallway is packed with adult patients. Nurses and doctors busily walk through the hallways to see patients.
People with blue plastic shoe covers appear everywhere, sitting, standing, and queuing at one family clinic. The sharp cry of a fretful infant comes from the cloakroom and is heard throughout the hallway. A couple of toddlers are running here and there while waiting for their turn to see a doctor. A teenage boy weighs himself on the scales right next to an exam room, looking hesitantly at an arrow that points to 50 kilograms.
The family clinic is the first one to open its door for the residents of the first khoroo, and it is visited by the elderly and young children regularly. A middle-aged lady at the entrance charges 100 MNT for each set of plastic shoe covers she hands out, and directs everyone to assigned examination rooms. A young mother with a ponytail bundles up her boy before they step outside into the chilly morning.
The Munkhbadrah Family Clinic also serves residents of the first khoroo of Khan-Uul District. The khoroo has over 10,000 residents, including temporary residents. The clinic’s visitors are generally seniors, but recently, younger children visit often during the flu season. The birth rate in the district is an average of 250 babies each year.

We learned more in a brief interview with Batbaatar, the head of the Munkhbadrah Family Clinic. 

Recently, the spread of flu and cold viruses has increased, and everybody is concerned about it. How are things at the family clinic? 

Yes, they are increasing, the contraction of influenza, its everywhere. It quickly spreads across the schools, families, and everywhere. Eventually, it leads to pneumonia. At our clinic, elders, youth, and adults often visit for various services, including time slots for medical tests, vaccines, and examinations. Therefore, its busier than usual. We are operating with extended hours nowadays.

How many children visit the clinic?

Oh, it’s intense nowadays. We’ve tripled our typical number of patients, and its really a big concern for space and beds.

Can you tell us what the main cause of the flu outbreak is?

Generally, since February, it has increased dramatically because of the constant visits and holidays. After the holidays, people instantly believe spring has arrived and stop wearing winter clothes. Also, the number of people going out often increases, and they do not wear face protection masks when they feel the first signs of flu.

What is the best treatment for the flu?

First, go see a doctor. Nowadays, home remedies are not encouraged. Adults and parents make mistakes when giving various medicines based on guesses or things heard by word of mouth, and children’s conditions worsen at home.

How can illness be prevented? What needs to be done at home?

Do not open the windows in the morning and evening, at the height of smoky air. Instead of opening them, you have to close them tightly. Unclean air can exacerbate flu symptoms and can be a main factor in making things worse. You have to clean your rooms daily and get clean air during at times when the air is fresher. Let children eat nutritious food, rest well, and dress warmly. Parents and adults should be careful and be informed. Do not take children to public places often.

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