Six persons have tested positive for influenza at Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) here in the last fortnight, prompting authorities to initiate precautionary measures for preventing the viral infection from spreading among its staff.

Last year influenza season stayed from October 2017 to March 2018 during which period at least 24 people lost their lives in Kashmir.

In September, fresh cases of the flu have started to pour in at the institute, a health official said, with at least six testing positive during the last two weeks.

Director SKIMS, Dr Omar Javed Shah confirmed that “some cases of flu” have been received at the hospital, although he did not give any exact figure.

“The patients were positive for H3N2 influenza but they did not required hospitalisation and were sent home,” Dr Shah said.

Authorities at SKIMS have constituted a panel to monitor preparedness for dealing with influenza as the vulnerability season is up on us.

In November last year, at least 10 doctors working in SKIMS had tested positive for the viral infection, some of them becoming critically sick and required to admitted for a period of time.

One employee of SKIMS, a resident Srinagar, had lost his to the viral infection. The hospital had come under fire for failing to ensure safety of its staff with timely vaccination and making personnel protection gear available to its staff.

This time the hospital administration has procured vaccines in “adequate numbers” and started to vaccinate staff posted in high risk areas such as emergency and ICU.

“The vaccines are available for all at our drug counter and we are prioritising our staff working in risk areas,” director SKIMS said, adding the hospital had kept an isolation ward ready, equipped it with four ventilators to handle emergencies.

Influenza experts emphasise the need to vaccinate high risk groups “before a peak” is reached.

“As the weather gets colder, flu cases are expected to rise,” said Dr Parvaiz A Kaul, head of internal and pulmonary medicine at SKIMS.

He said vaccination was the safest bet against flu. The high risk groups, those who “must” get vaccinated include diabetics, expecting mothers, elderly, those with respiratory problems, people with compromised immunity and children.

Healthcare professionals are also at high risk of contracting influenza, Dr Kaul said.

Last year two expecting mothers lost their lives to flu at SKIMS. Recently, the tertiary care health institute issued an advisory for healthcare workers and common.