Panic has set among Sri Lankans of a possible Swine Flu (H1N1) outbreak in the country, amidst unconfirmed reports that a large number of Swine Flu affected Maldivians had arrived in Colombo for treatment.
An SMS alert making the rounds claimed that over 200 Maldivians with the swine flu had arrived in the country unmonitored and had checked themselves in to Lanka Hospital for treatment, however Group Chief Executive Officer of Lanka Hospitals Dr. Prasad Medawatte issued a statement rejecting the reports which were circulating in social media that Maldivian patients diagnosed with swine flu were admitted to Lanka Hospitals and had died. “Lanka Hospitals wishes to announce that only 12 Maldivian patients have been admitted currently at Lanka Hospitals, out of which 10 are surgical and 2 are medical patients; none with swine flu,” he said on Friday.
However, an OPD patient who had made an appointment to channel a doctor at the hospital said that he had decided to skip his appointment because despite the assurance from the hospital, he did not want to take the risk. “The truth is Lanka Hospital has a lot of Maldivian patients and there can be a possibility that there are even one or two patients with the flu, so I don’t want to take the unnecessary risk,” he said.
He also pointed out that a large number of Maldivians travel to Sri Lanka very regularly for medical and education purposes, and although Maldives reported about the virus outbreak early this week, the Sri Lankan airport did not have any mechanism over the past week to screen anyone coming into the country from Maldives. “So there can be a possibility of Maldivians with the virus who may have travelled to Sri Lanka,” he noted
Meanwhile, SriLankan airlines on Friday announced that it had activated the Communicable Disease Procedures on its flights that are operating in and out of Male. “Accordingly the crew will be wearing face masks and will provide a face mask to any passenger who requests one to wear during a flight,” the airline said.
By Saturday morning, Maldivian authorities said that the H1N1 had infected a total of 114, even though there was a drop in the number of people visiting hospitals in Maldives. Maldivian authorities were compelled to shut down schools and the state university in the Male Capital during the week due to the outbreak.