Health Ministry seeks WHO’s help to strengthen its flu surveillanceThe Ministry of Health and Population has been tracking flu viruses since 2010 through a National Influenza Centre.
The Epidemiology and Disease Control Division has sought help from the World Health Organization to strengthen its drive against flu.
The division’s move comes after it was found that several flu viruses have been showing unexpected patterns throughout the world. Nepal is rated among the most vulnerable countries facing flu epidemic risk.
"We have sought the UN health agency for expert help to set up an effective surveillance system and to train our health workers," Dr Bibek Kumar Lal, director at the division told the Post. "An expert who worked to set up an effective surveillance system in Nigeria, Ghana and other African countries, would come here to assist us."
The division has been carrying out flu surveillance through the hospital network under which hospitals throughout the country report flu cases and send samples to the National Influenza Centre run by the National Public Health Laboratory.
The division has also held a meeting with concerned agencies under the provincial governments in all seven provinces to strengthen measures for effective flu surveillance.
"We will see if the same model that was applied in the African countries will be applicable in our context or a new model is required," said Dr Lal. "We will develop a reliable channel to report flu cases and monitor it effectively."
The Ministry of Health and Population has been tracking flu viruses since 2010 through the National Influenza Centre. Flu tracking systems have been set up in several places throughout the country.
]A biosafety level-3 laboratory has also been established with the WHO’s financial assistance at the National Public Health Laboratory for containment of deadly viruses.
Last year, samples of bird flu virus were contained and analysed in the BSL-3 lab and were sent to the WHO's reference laboratory in Japan for further confirmation. The reference laboratory laters confirmed that the bird flu virus caused the death of a 21-year-old man.
Health workers report and send samples of suspicious flu cases to the center for further confirmation. The laboratory also deploys technical human resources to collect samples in the disease-hit areas, if a massive flu outbreak is reported.
Dr Runa Jha, director at the laboratory, said that her office has regularly been carrying out flu surveillance and informing the concerned agencies under the Health Ministry about the flu patterns.
Meanwhile, the division said it was in regular touch with the provincial health directorate of the Karnali Province in western Nepal after a woman died of flu-like illness at Kharpurnath Rural Municipality in Humla on Monday night.
It has been reported that an outbreak of flu-like illness has gripped the entire village.
"We are in close contact with all concerned agencies of the Karnali Province," said Lal. “They told us, the situation is under control."
In April last year, 10 people of Humla district had died from influenza-like ailments.