Stifling reality

That millions of cases of swine flu have been reported with thousands of deaths attributed to it have sent alarm signals worldwide. Over a thousand infected with the pandemic Influenza A (H1N1) have died in the United States alone, and it has taken a toll of at least 400 in India. What is a matter of immense concern is that studies show that this virus will spread more rapidly during the winter. With the

cold season approaching, it is feared that there

will be mores cases of swine flue and Nepal will be

no exception. So far, about 40 people in Nepal have been diagnosed with the disease. At first, cases of

H1N1 was detected only from those who had

returned from abroad. So the health authorities

tried to maintain a strict vigil at airports and border check points to check the spread of the disease. However, now cases of swine flu have been reported

from the capital city as well as Chitwan. This is a pointer to the fact that this pandemic influenza is already spreading in the country, and, therefore, the health authorities should now be on their toes for the disease has the potential of reaching pandemic proportions in Nepal as well.

So far, the Ministry of Health and Population does not appear to be prepared to handle a possible outbreak of the disease. However, MoHP says it has been conducting an awareness campaign with the help of around 45,000 female community health and Red Cross Society volunteers. Since swine flu vaccines are expected to be available in Nepal only by November end, the threat that this pandemic

could reach serious dimensions is real. Blood samples of suspected swine flu victims for tests have been collected from patients from several parts of the country. This precaution should be taken

so as to check the pandemic. It is expected that the World Health Organisation (WHO) will provide Nepal with the swine flue vaccine and also the equipment necessary to treat severe cases of swine flue as well as to diagnose the disease. There is no time to lose if we are to avert a looming disaster. The available vaccine should be provided particularly to the high risk groups. Since there are not sufficient vaccines available for all wanting to take them, they should be administered on a priority basis to be determined by the authorities.

Meanwhile, the WHO has already started

distributing the vaccines from the beginning of October in the developed countries. The WHO would be providing the vaccines on the basis of poverty, vulnerability of the cases and Human Development Index. Since Nepal figures low on this criteria, it is expected that it will be provided with the vaccines. In the meantime, all measures should be taken to contain the spread of the disease. Wearing of masks should be encouraged in crowded public places. Those who suspect having the disease should immediately receive medical attention. However, it must be noted here that the authorities should ensure that there is no panicking and only genuine cases of swine flu are treated and there is no misuse of overstretched treatment facilities. Furthermore, since the majority of people who contract the virus recover, there is a need to reassure the public.

Shocking figures

The Home Ministry statistics regarding the road mishap deaths pegged at an average of three every day is very disconcerting. This just raises up many more questions regarding the condition of roads, the adherence to traffic rules by the vehicle drivers, the traffic rule enforcement aspect and the like. The thrust for making the roads safer hardly seems to have taken off in the real direction. With a very limited network of roads in the country, the toll figure is too high by any standard. This is to say that the authorities concerned are not unaware of the fatal causes that line the roads. Yet, the efforts at mitigating the problems do not seem to have received the urgent attention that they need.

It is true that the negligence of the drivers are mostly responsible for the road mishaps, but the other possible causes too have to be taken into consideration. All safety measures have to take better roads and strict implementation of the traffic rules as the starting point. It is also necessary that only the eligible receive the driving licenses, after fulfilling all the criteria specified. The traffic police also ought to be alert to curtail flouting of the traffic rules.