Nepal records its first swine flu deaths

Kathmandu, Dec 28 - Six months after the first swine flu cases were reported in Nepal, the pandemic has claimed its first victims in the country, with two people succumbing to the virus.

Nepal's state media Monday reported the death of a 30-year-old woman at Bir Hospital, Nepal's oldest hospital, due to the influenza she contracted while undergoing treatment for renal failure.

The patient, whose identity has not been revealed due to requests from her family, came from Bhaktapur town and had been admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital 19 days ago, doctors said.

She died Thursday, succumbing to multiple organ failures, said Pradip Koirala, the attending physician.

According to health ministry officials, another woman, who had been admitted to the Janamaitri Hospital in Kathmandu, also died of swine flu last month. But the death was not made public immediately.

She was a resident of Chitwan, a popular tourist destination in southern Nepal, the official media said.

There are over 50 reported cases of swine flu infections in Nepal. However, due to lack of diagnostic facilities in remote towns, it is feared that the number could be higher.

The first cases were reported in June when three members of a Nepali family arriving from the US tested positive for the disease at the Tribhuvan International Airport here.

Subsequently, though mass outbreaks were reported in the western districts of Parbat and Baglung last month, no deaths were reported.

However, with swine flu deaths crossing 852 in neighbouring India, Nepal has been living with the fear of mass infections just as HIV and AIDS spread to the landlocked republic from India in the past. Hundreds of workers from this country head south to India every day.

There have also been cases of residents in border villages forcing sick people out of their homes and ostracising the family due to fears that they had contracted swine flu during their sojourn in India.

The World Health Organisation estimates over 11,500 people have died due to the Influenza A H1N1 virus worldwide.

Health experts fear Nepal would be unable to cope with an epidemic since barring the health posts at its lone international airport in Kathmandu, there is little organised effort to screen people entering overland from India.(IANS)