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Swine flu fears reach Afghanistan from India

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By Akhtar M.Nikzad-KABUL: Indian media reported recently that swine flu outbreak has been sweeping India including its capital city New Delhi.

This virus has taken hundreds of lives and affected hundreds others.

If media reports are any guide then the total number of deaths due to swine flu has reached 1,198 and over 22,000 people have been affected with the H1N1 virus across India.

Swine flu is commonly known as an infectious disease caused by the pig deadly virus. Symptoms can be mild or severe. The most common symptoms include: a high fever, runny nose, sore throat, muscle pains, headache, coughing, and feeling tired. Since Afghanistan and India enjoy cordial ties therefore Afghan nationals have not only been living in India but also do travelling. It’s feared they may bring home the virus from India as there are no health and vaccination facilities at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. It is believed that from 400-500 Afghans travel to India by flight on daily basis for medical care and visit purposes. Talking to Afghanistan Times spokesman for Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority (ACAA), Qasim Rahimi said that around 500 citizens fly to India on daily basis from different airports such as Kabul, Balkh, Kandahar and Herat.

According ACAA, around 15,000 Afghans travel to India on monthly basis, and nearly 547,500 Afghans travel to India for different purposes including treatment.

In reply to a query that whether the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) have the facilities to diagnose the swine flu virus among those that return from India and as well as about any measures taken by the ministry in controlling the outbreak of the H1N1, the Public Health Minister, Ferozuddin Feroz, told Afghanistan Times that after being informed about the outbreak of the swine flu virus, directed the MoPH to take concrete and urgent measures for controlling the likely spread of the virus and diagnosing of affected citizens.

He said that a special team was assigned at Kabul, Kandahar and Herat airports to implement diagnostic measure among those who return from India. “Every Afghan who returns from India undergoes a blood test at the airports. The type A of the H1N1 virus has been diagnosed among Afghans that had returned from India,” he added.

The ACAA spokesman did not confirm existence of any health clinic at the airports but he welcomed establishment of a diagnostic center at Kabul, Herat and Kandahar airports and said that they would help in controlling the outbreak of the virus.

Criticizing the Public Health Ministry for reluctance in controlling the spate of swine flu in the country, a number of Afghans who traveled to India claimed that the MoPH had not taken any measure for testing those Afghans and foreigners who return from India.

Nasim Nasrat, an Afghan who recently visited India, said that there was no heath facility at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul to diagnose the infectious disease. “I have not seen any diagnostic center or healthcare personnel at the airport to ask travelers about any health problem and if they are affected with swine flu in India,” he said.

He added that the virus could easily spread as the MoPH was reluctant to take any measure in this regard.

Wali Entezar, another Afghan recently returned from India after treatment, said that the outbreak of swine flu was a big threat to Afghanistan as most of Afghans travel to that country on daily basis for treatment and other purposes therefore they can serve as main transformers of the virus from India to Afghanistan. “The government should be aware about the outbreak of pig influenza in India and should take preventive measures as soon as possible,” he suggested.

Reports suggest that the H1N1 virus has taken 981 lives in 2009, 1,763 in 2010, 75 in 2011, 405 in 2012 and 692 lives in 2013. According to the recent reports, the number of deaths due to outbreak of swine flu in 2015 has reached to 1,198 and over 22,000 people have been affected with the H1N1 virus across India.

However, Dr. Feroz rejected outbreak of swine flu in India and stressed that Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of India and World Health Organization (WHO) in a contact with the MoPH rejected the allegations about existence of swine flu in that country. “We talked about the issue with WHO and they rejected the allegations. In the meantime, we shared our concerns about outbreak of pig flu with India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and they also rejected the reports but confirmed a few cases in remote states of Rajasthan and Gujarat,” he said.

He added that Indian officials rejected any positive case of swine flu in India’s capital city, New Delhi.

Nooruddin Andish, a specialist of infectious diseases, said that the main cause of swine flu is H1N1 influenza subtype but other types like H1N2, H3N1 and H3N2 can also create the infectious disease in human.

“There are three types of influenza that that affect people. The H1N1 virus can be transferred through air particles after sneezing and cough. The symptoms caused by the swine influenza virus (SIV) occur in short distances. The transmission of the virus can occur by contact with contaminated surfaces to eyes and mouth,” he added.

Hinting at symptoms of hog flu, he said that symptoms of this infectious disease caused by the H1N1 virus are similar to those of other types and include sudden fever – a temperature of 38C, tiredness, aching muscles or joint pain, headache and runny or blocked nose.

About preventive measures to control outbreak of pig flu, Nooruddin said that the easiest way to prevent the disease is to take hygienic measures including washing hands wish detergents, not touching contaminated eyes, nose and mouth with contaminated hands as the virus can be transmitted through the surface of cell phones and other devises that are used daily by people, staying at home when someone feels sick, avoiding large gatherings when swine flu is in its season.

He also said that best remedy to prevent the disease is to rest at home, keep warm and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.