Nepal fears swine flu invasion from India

August 16th, 2009 - 1:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 16 (IANS) The quarantining of the first migrant Nepali worker returning from India by land has raised the fear of an outbreak of swine flu in the Himalayan republic from the neighbouring country, where the toll has reached 26.
The 22-year-old male Nepali worker, who was returning home to midwestern Rukum district from Garhwal in India’s Uttarakhand state, was quarantined Saturday by the health desk opened by the government of Nepal at the Nepalgunj border crossing point, one of the three busiest check-posts on the 1,800 km open India-Nepal border.

Diagnosed with fever, cough, a sore throat and other swine flu-like symptoms, the man was admitted to the Bheri Regional Hospital for further tests.

The first cases of swine flu, detected in Nepal in June after a family returning from the US were diagnosed with the H1N1 virus, had not created immediate panic. There were only 20 reported cases of Influenza A till Saturday, with no deaths.

However, the rapid outbreak of the disease in India, where over 1,500 people have been diagnosed with the new pandemic, has now stoked fears of an outbreak in Nepal which remains landlocked by India on three sides.

Tens of thousands of people travel across the open border between the two countries every day by land for work, business, shopping or visiting relatives, making it a major difficulty for cash and manpower-strapped Nepal to maintain effective vigil on its land border.

A Nepali daily Sunday said the swine flu attack in India was causing Nepali workers to return home in panic.

After outbreaks in India’s Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune cities, scared Nepali workers are coming back, the Nagarik daily reported.

In Kanchanpur district in farwest Nepal, which too shares a border with India, at the check post on the Nepali side cassettes were being played on microphones in a desperate bid to catch the attention of migrants returning home and make them aware of the disease.

In Jogbani, another key check-post, a high alert had been issued and the authorities were trying to enforce the use of masks in a bid to prevent transborder transmission of the disease, the report said.

Nepal is already struggling with a raging diarrhoea outbreak in the west that, according to NGOs, has killed over 300 people.

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