The number of confirmed swine flu—A (H1N1)—cases kept rising, with the National Public Health Laboratory confirming on Wednesday that 13 people tested positive for the disease in the country. Nine of the confirmed cases came from Kathmandu and two each from Chitwan and Pokhara.
Health officials, however, urged the public not to panic saying that the number of confirmed cases has not reached the epidemic proportions. “A disease becomes an epidemic only if 10 to 15 cases are reported on a daily basis,” explained Dr Baburam Marasini, director of Epidemiology and Disease Control Division at the Department of Health Services.
However, with the disease already claiming more than 900 lives in neighbouring India, the rising cases of positive reports have sent people into panic mode.
“My mother telephoned me yesterday and asked me not to go out unless it is absolutely necessary,” said Suraj Mainali, a +2 student in the Capital. He has been wearing a mask to school for the past couple days.
Amid criticism for late response, the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) made the report public on Wednesday confirming that of the 47 influenza cases, nine people tested positive for swine flu in the Capital between February 15 and 24. Five of them have a recent history of travel to India, suggesting they might have contracted the virus during their visit. Director of NPHL Dr Geeta Shakya, however, urged the public for calm saying that swine flu had entered the country in the form of seasonal flu which belongs to the non-lethal category of infections and is not life-threatening in most cases.
“But old people, pregnant women, children and people suffering from chronic disease of lungs, heart are at a higher risk,” she said.
The A H1N1 pdm 09 strain of influenza found in Nepal is the same one that caused a global pandemic in 2009, which according to WHO killed more than 18,000 people. Other cases of flu outbreaks in the country are suspected to have spread due to a mutant strain of the disease yet unknown.
“Genetic sequencing has to be carried out to identify the difference in genetic composition of the possible mutant strain,” Dr Shakya said. “This will be done shortly.”
With an epidemic looming, the government has already set up health desks at major transit points along the border with India and also at Tribhuvan International Airport to screen arrivals into the country. Last year, there were 300 confirmed cases of swine flu, with 18 deaths.
Cough, fever, headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chills,vomiting or diarrhoea are common symptoms of swine flu. If a person develops one of these symptoms, he/she should immediately consult a doctor.
Signs and symptoms of infection
Early signs of influenza: A (H1N1) are flu-like, including fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat and runny nose, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhoea. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions