The spread of bird flu in India, especially the spate of cases in Kerala, is forcing expatriates to rethink their plans to travel home.
Health officials in Kerala have confirmed that bird flucases have touched a dozen – the maximum number of cases being reported in district of Kozhikode. Thrissur, Malappuram, Kasargode and Alappuzha have also reported bird flu cases.
Keralite expats in Abu Dhabi said they are worried and are postponing their travel plans. Abdul Jalal, an AC technician from Malappuram, is one among them. Jalal said he is afraid that bird flu may spread rapidly in his district. “People are not very aware and they do not follow good hygiene. I am scared of getting infected. It is better to be cautious,” he said.
Kunji Mohammed, who works in a restaurant in Abu Dhabi, said one of his neighbours in his home town in Kozhikode district was infected. “My mother told me over the phone that she is close to the woman who tested positive last week. I am definitely not going now,” he said.
Allaying fears of any possible travel restrictions or screening at the airport, M.K Lokesh, Indian ambassador to the UAE told Emirates24/7 that the embassy has so far not received any notifications from the local authorities regarding screening of Indians at the airport. “I think the situation is normal. So far we have not received any notifications or directions either from the government of India or from the local authorities regarding bird flu,” said the ambassador.
In 2009 and 2010, when the worst attacks of bird fluwere reported, many international airports installed thermal scanners for screening patients. Travellers were also asked to produce medical certificates or vaccination reports to prove they are free from infection.
Health authorities in Kerala have declared that they are fully geared and all the hospitals have stocks of anti-viral medicine unlike during the 2009 outbreak.
The Indian government has announced that this year so far a total of 920 bird flucases have been reported, including 57 deaths. Cases of pandemic influenza-A have re-surfaced in the states of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.