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Avoid visits to India due to surge in swine flu cases: Lankan official

India poses the biggest threat to Sri Lanka in spreading the HINI (swine flu) virus across the island and restrictions should be imposed on Lankans traveling to Indian cities, a top government official has said.

world Updated: Aug 15, 2009 21:55 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

India poses the biggest threat to Sri Lanka in spreading the HINI (swine flu) virus across the island and restrictions should be imposed on Lankans traveling to Indian cities, a top government official has said.

"A large number of Sri Lankan pilgrims visit India everyday and it is the main risk that Sri Lanka is facing at the moment. They should try their best to avoid or at least postpone such trips for some time," chief epidemiologist of health care and nutrition ministry, Paba Palihawadana told the Daily News newspaper.

She added that since India was already affected by the disease, Lankans should avoid travelling to India as much as possible

Till the first week of August 60 cases of HINI were detected in Sri Lanka and some of the infected persons had returned from a visit to India.

Scores of flights operate between Colombo and various Indian cities like New Delhi, Mumbai and many South India cities every week. There are several daily flights between Colombo and Chennai, which are usually packed with pilgrims and tourists.

Palihawadana said that persons who visit India should take all precautionary measures such as using masks, avoid attending events where people gather, avoid mass gatherings as much as possible and keep away from sick people (people who appear to be down with a flu), and wash hands properly.

A spread of the disease in Sri Lanka would not augur well for its tourism industry, which is showing the first signs of picking up after the end of the 26-year-old war with the separatist LTTE in May. In 2008, more than 21 per cent of tourists to Sri Lanka were from India.

The first confirmed case of H1N1 flu in the island, an eight-year-old Australian boy of Lanka origin, was reported on June 16. Three more relatives of his family were soon diagnosed to have the flu as well.