India quarantines family



ABU DHABI // Two airline passengers, who passed through Dubai on their way to India, are in quarantine after testing positive for swine flu. A 35-year old mother and her five-year-old son tested positive after transiting through the UAE while flying from the United States to India after a brief break with the father, who lives in Boston. The woman's daughter, who also accompanied the pair, has also been quarantined, according to Dr V Vijayalakshmi, the deputy director of health services at the Coimbatore Medical College, a government hospital. He said, "Even though the girl has tested negative for H1N1, we have quarantined her because of her prolonged exposure to both cases." So far, every confirmed case of swine flu in India are in passengers who have transited through Dubai.

The mother and son departed from New York on May 27 on an Emirates flight and spent an hour and a half in transit in Dubai before boarding another of the airline's flights to Chennai. The next day, from Chennai, the three passengers boarded a local flight on Kingfisher airlines to Coimbatore, 500 km south west of Chennai in the state of Tamilnadu. Dr V Kumaran, dean of Coimbatore Medical College, said "Most people travelling from the US to India pass through Dubai. I think there is need for more checks at the Dubai airport after these new cases surfaced. The chances of others getting infected at the airport cannot be ruled out," he said. This brings the total number of confirmed swine flu cases in India to three, including the first case which was detected in a 23-year-old man who had travelled from New York to Hyderabad, via Dubai on an Emirates flight last month.

Within an hour of disembarking from their flight, the mother in the most recent case admitted her son to the Coimbatore Medical College after he started displaying symptoms, including a fever. Dr Jumaran said "She didn't display any symptoms but we quarantined the whole family and took swabs. The results came back positive for two out of three of them. They will be quarantined for at least a week and their condition at the moment is stable and they are responding to Tamiflu." Dr Vijalakshmi said that the authorities were able to track down 43 of the 55 passengers who were on the local flight and they had submitted the list for the other two flights to the government authorities, who she said, would be in touch with the airlines. Dr Cliff Webster, Emirates' chief medical adviser, said the airline was helping the Indian health authorities contact other passengers on the flight.

He added: "Emirates currently complies with requirements laid down by the UAE Ministry of Health. On all Emirates' flights from North and South America, passengers are required to declare their health condition in an official form which is collected on arrival at Dubai by the UAE Ministry of Health. "Passengers are also screened using thermal scanners at Dubai International Airport. Emirates' crew returning on North and South American flights undergo temperature checks on arrival in Dubai as per UAE Ministry of Health requirements." sbhattacharya@thenational.ae *Additional reporting by Praveen Menon.

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