Health

Authorities to send more specimens abroad to test for bird flu virus

  • Health Ministry says it still tracking some people who came in close contact of the person who died of H5N1 virus on March 29
- ARJUN POUDEL, Kathmandu

May 11, 2019-

The Epidemiology and Disease Control Division says it is preparing to send specimens collected from the people who came in close contact with the person who died after contracting the H5N1 (bird flu) virus on March 29.

The division, under the Department of Health Services, had formed a team of medical doctors and lab technicians to carry out an epidemiological investigation after the death of a 21-year-old from Kavrepalanchok district from the bird flu virus.

“We have collected specimens from doctors, nurses, close family members, relatives, and hospitals--and also from homes,” Dr Bibek Kumar Lal, director at the division, told the Post.

The name of the deceased has not been disclosed yet, but he was said to be residing in Bhaktapur in a rented room and worked as a driver.

The Health Ministry, however, announced only on April 30 that the man had died from H5N1. Throat swabs of the deceased had been sent to the World Health Organisation’s Collaborating Centre for Influenza in Japan, which confirmed that he had contracted Influenza A (H5N1), which caused his death.

Following the confirmation of deadly virus responsible for the death, health experts from the WHO’s headquarters and its regional office in New Delhi, India arrived in Kathmandu to assist Nepali health officials to carry out an epidemiological investigation.

According to Lal, his office would send samples to the country recommended by the UN health agency.

Earlier, WHO officials suggested that specimens be sent to the Collaborating Center for Influenza in Japan that confirmed the virus. Such labs are in several countries and the UN health body may recommend any one of them.

“We are working closely with them and will decide our next step accordingly,” said Lal.

The division has secured all collected samples in the biosafety level-3 laboratory of the National Public Health Laboratory.

Health officials say it takes time to send samples to laboratories abroad, as manpower trained to handle the biohazard are required for that.

Airlines do not easily carry such specimens and for that, protocols of international health regulations need to be followed, according to officials at the Health Ministry.

Meanwhile, the ministry said it was still tracking some people, who came in contact with the deceased but are out of home for personal business.

The death of the 21-year-old from H5N1 virus, the first bird flu casualty in Nepal and first in the world since February 2017, has been a cause for concern. H5N1 is a lethal bird flu virus strain that is highly pathogenic.

Published: 12-05-2019 06:30

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