KATHMANDU: Two Nepal Army officers who returned from Liberia, the Ebola-hit west African country, have been sent into isolation at Nagarkot. The officers, who were deployed in the United Nations (UN) peace-keeping mission in the virus-affected country, had returned on Tuesday.
A highly placed source informed Republica that one of the officers is a colonel and the other a major. Both officers were sent to Nagarkot barracks directly from Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA). An ambulance from the army hospital picked up both officers from the airport. The two have to stay in the isolation unit at army barracks for up to three weeks.
Officials at the quarantine desk at TIA confirmed that army officers have returned from Liberia and were sent to the army´s isolation unit at Nagarkot.
“They will have to remain three weeks in isolation. Only then will they be allowed to go home and meet their families,” said Kumar Dahal, a public health inspector at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD) who has been deployed at the airport health desk.
Dahal declined to disclose the names of the two officers, citing privacy reasons.
The EDCD of the Department of Health Services (DoHS) set up a quarantine health desk at TIA on Sunday afternoon. Since then, 16 people, including senior army officers, have entered the country from west Africa as of Tuesday morning. Among them, two are Kenyan nationals and one is a Briton who recently visited west Africa.
Though the two NA officers have been sent into isolation, the authorities have let the others returning from the virus-affected countries go home. “All people coming from west Africa are under our surveillance. We have taken down particulars of those passengers,” claimed Dahal, adding that health workers at the TIA desk will monitor their state of health for three weeks.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the death toll from Ebola has risen to 1,229 from among the 2,240 cases reported in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The latest figures include 84 additional deaths among the 113 new cases reported between August 14 and 16. The government has decided not to grant on-arrival visas to people coming from countries hit by the Ebola outbreak. According to WHO, Ebola is 90 percent fatal.
A high-level meeting of government officials held at the Prime Minister´s Office (PMO) last week had decided to strictly monitor all those coming to Nepal from Ebola-hit countries by air or land. It also set up quarantine health desks at TIA and at border checkpoints.
Special focus on people returning from Africa
All people returning from abroad have to go through the surveillance health desk, but health workers serving at the desk said that they have been giving special priority to people returning from the African continent.
“All the people have to go through the health desk but we have been giving special priority to those returning from the African continent,” said Dataram Adhikari, a paramedic at District Public Health Office (DPHO) Kathmandu, who has been deployed at the health desk.
He said that health workers are given precautionary training and are asked to refer to the consultant doctor at EDCD if needed. “If any suspicious patient comes to the airport, we will send him to Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital,” he said.
Hari Prasad Upadhya, another health worker of Kathmandu DPHO, said that possibilities of infected people entering the country are slim as there is no direct flight to the disease-hit west African countries. According to him, passengers have to change planes and if someone is found infected, he or she will have been spotted in the airports of other countries.
Meanwhile, TIA authorities on Tuesday issued a circular to all international airlines operating in the country to instruct all who have recently visited Africa to contact the health desk.
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