The Jharkhand government has put its hospitals on alert, asking them for surveillance, preventive measures and testing of respiratory illness cases in the backdrop of a mysterious pneumonia outbreak in China, officials said on Saturday.

In a letter to the district administrations, Additional Chief Secretary for Health Arun Kumar Singh directed them to remain prepared and keep a constant vigil on the situation.

"In view of the recently reported surge in respiratory illness, especially in children in Northern China, in the recent weeks, this is to bring to your kind notice that there is an urgent need to keep a constant vigil, monitor trends of cases and quickly respond to any emerging public health," Singh said in the letter.

In view of the ongoing influenza, there might be an increase in respiratory illness cases, he said.

"This is predominantly attributed to usual causes like Influenza strain (H1N1/H3N2/H5N1/H9N2 etc.), mycoplasma pneumonia, SARS-CoV-2, etc," Singh said.

"In order to minimise the incidence of respiratory diseases along with the current scenario of unusual causes of respiratory diseases in children or any unexpected clinical manifestations, there is a need to increase the surveillance and remain vigilant and to monitor the continuously changing nature of the virus, including respiratory pathogen (H1N1, H3N2 etc) and evolution of SARS CoV-2 variants," he added.

Singh asked officials to strengthen the flu and respiratory clinics in the medical colleges, district hospitals, and health centres.

The departments of microbiology at RIMS-Ranchi and Mahatma Gandhi Medical College in Jamshedpur have been made sentinel sites for sending the suspected samples, he said.

The district administrations have also been asked to ensure that the health facilities, including private hospitals, report all suspected cases. Besides, they were also asked to assess the availability of oxygen and the supply chain for refilling along with other necessary equipment.

In addition, they were asked to ensure mock drills for emergency circumstances, officials said.

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