General

Nepal defenceless against Ebola risk

  • ‘No money to set up quarantine facility at airport’
- Manish Gautam, KATHMANDU
Nepal defenceless against Ebola risk

Aug 10, 2014-

As the world prepares to contain the spread of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) with southern neighbour India setting up a 24-hour helpline, Nepal is yet to adopt quarantine measures to isolate patients landing at the Tribhuvan International Airport particularly from West African countries.

The outbreak of EVD in West Africa has gone unchecked, infecting 1,779 people--961 of whom have died until August 6, according to the World Health Organization. Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria are the most affected countries.

The Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD), responsible for responding to an epidemic outbreak, is yet to set up a quarantine system at TIA, the country’s sole international airport, exposing the nation to communicable diseases confronting the world including the EVD.

EDCD Director Dr Baburam Marasini said they were unable to establish a quarantine facility in the lack of funds. They had demanded Rs 50 million while the Finance Ministry earmarked only Rs 3 million, which is insufficient to establish any such facility.

“We are aware of the risk Ebola can pose our country. Without money, our hands are tied,” said Dr Marasini, informing about his office’s plans to establish quarantine systems in the TIA and seven checkpoints along the border elsewhere.

Nigeria has a significant number of Nepali migrant labourers working in its factories, dance bars and international agencies. Experts say many Indian construction agencies have been hiring Nepalis for jobs such as security guards and menial labourers. Liberia is another major African destination for Nepalis including peacekeeping forces.

According to the Nepal Army, there are 20 NA personnel under the United Nations Mission in Liberia. The headquarters have been corresponding with them about their health status on a daily basis.

NA spokesman Jagdish Chandra Pokhrel said all their personnel are safe and are cautious about the threat of its transmission.

Dr Badri Raj Pandey, a public health expert, said the government has not taken precaution to check the spread of the Ebola virus to the country. Since Nepal shares border with India and China that have huge labour migration to Africa, he warns, the disease remains a major threat here too.

“Since there is no specific cure for the fatal disease, the country has no option but to isolate any suspected case on the boarder or at the airport,” said Dr Pandey.

During global outbreaks of communicable diseases, Nepal has witnessed transmission of pathogens from either foreigners or Nepalis returning from abroad. Following the detection of such cases, the government had set up temporary health desks during global epidemics such as Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003, and H1N1 influenza, otherwise known as swine flu, in 2009. The health screening desk was removed after the disease scare diminished. Although there are two private-run health centres inside the TIA for emergency treatment of passengers, they do not screen passengers.

EVD, which has a case fatality rate of up to 90 percent, is believed to have been transmitted to humans from wild animals and spreads from person to person.

According to WHO, EVD is a severe acute viral illness often characterised by a sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus. The WHO says there is no licensed vaccine for EVD with several formalue being tested, but none are available for clinical use.

Published: 10-08-2014 08:36

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