India may ask flu-hit countries to test exit passengers

June 9th, 2009 - 6:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, June 9 (IANS) India may ask the countries affected by influenza A(H1N1) to test all air passengers for the virus at exit points and advise those carrying suspected symptoms to defer their travel plans, an health official said here Tuesday.
The ministry of health has written to ministry of external affairs to advise the affected countries to go for exit screening to stop infected persons from travelling, Shiv Lal, the special director general, health services in the central government, told reporters here.

Countries with high concentration of swine flu cases might also be asked to advise those with suspected symptoms to defer their travel plans, he said.

“We have already written to the ministry of external affairs and we are going to write again,” he said.

India has so far reported 11 confirmed cases of swine flu. The highest number of cases (seven) were reported from Hyderabad while two each were found affected in Tamil Nadu and Delhi.

Since those coming from the affected countries were found infected with the virus during the screening on their arrival at the airports in India, the health ministry is seeking exit screening for all air passengers from the affected countries.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy has already written to the centre to issue a travel advisory for the people suspected to be carrying the virus.

Shiv Lal, who arrived here Tuesday to apprise himself of the experience of the state health authorities in tackling the situation, said a network of 18 laboratories was being created across the country for testing the samples for influenza A (H1N1). “We already have identified nine laboratories while nine more will be identified soon,” he said.

Currently, the tests are being conducted only at National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), New Delhi and National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune. The two labs have so far tested 190 samples.

Shiv Lal, who also heads NICD, inspected the screening facilities at the airport here. He said no international air passenger should be exempted from screening.

He also visited Andhra Pradesh Chest Hospital, the nodal centre for swine flu cases, where six persons are undergoing treatment and held talks with doctors to know about their condition.

The official also held talks with the health authorities to know their preparedness, the steps taken to detect the cases and the quarantine facilities available here.

L.V. Subrahmanyam, principal secretary, health in the central government, said steps would be taken to expedite the sample testing. It was decided that the samples would be sent to Pune instead of Delhi for testing.

He said they also discussed steps to prevent cluster formation in view of an air passenger infected with virus spreading it to a person, who had not travelled. A techie, who returned from Philadelphia via London by British Airways flight BA 277 on May 31, and was found to be suffering from swine flu, had also passed on the infection to his brother here, as well as three more passengers of the same flight including a four-and-half-year old girl.

Subrahmanyam said all steps were being taken to prevent cluster formation. The domestic servant of the techie, his neighbours and the child who comes to his house for tuition were also being monitored.

The health authorities have traced passengers who travelled with the techie. Passengers seated in the three rows each, in front and back, of the seat the infected man sat are being monitored. “Those who have no symptoms are also being given anti-viral drugs,” he said.

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