The Bangladeshi government is on alert in context of swift global spread of swine flu, especially after news reached here on Thursday that an expatriate Bangladeshi died of suspected swine flu in Mexico recently, officials said.
Senior spokesman of the South Asian country's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Munshi Jalal Uddin told Xinhua on Thursday that all officials concerned have been asked to remain on alert. "Our health minister today in a meeting reminded officials concerned to remain alert," he said.
The health minister's direction came on Thursday when a news reached here that a Bangladeshi migrant in Mexico died with flu symptoms recently and the World Health Organization (WHO) has again warned that a possible pandemic of swine flu was imminent.
"We've come to know one Bangladeshi has died in Mexico. But we are yet to be confirmed whether he died of swine flu," Deputy Head of the country's Avian Influenza Program under the Health Ministry Mamun-Ar-Rashid said on Thursday.
A Bangladeshi on condition of anonymity told Xinhua that he was known to the deceased whom he called Mamun. He said, "Mamun's roommate called from Mexico on April 18 or 19 to inform me that Mamun died after suffering from fever for two days, but couldn't confirm whether he died of swine flu."
Rashid, however, said the government has already attached more importance to thwart the infectious disease with tough measures to close all possible loopholes.
As part of precautionary measures, the authorities have started to test inbound passengers at the main Zia International Airport (ZIA) in the capital Dhaka, the premier seaport and international airport in the second largest Chittagong city in the southeast.
Travelers who come from the affected countries will be screened at the ZIA and doctors and officials of the airport have been given training to be able to detect the virus, Health Minister AFM Ruhal Haque said on Wednesday.
Rashid said travellers coming from the affected countries or having the flu symptoms will be asked to fill up a form at the airport.
He said there are now arrangements for conducting blood test for any one who is found to be carrying the flu symptoms.
Meanwhile the Chittagong seaport and Shah Amanat international airport in the coastal Chittagong city have been put on maximum alert to contain spread of swine flu.
A seven-member team has already been deputed at both sea and air ports from Wednesday to check international passengers, national news agency BSS earlier reported.
According to a decision made by Bangladesh's Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research under the Health Ministry on Monday, check points will also be set up at the international airport in northeastern Syhlet city.
"We've already approached the WHO to support us by providing logistics like facial mask and other required equipment to test the disease," Rashid said.
"A large number of doctors and officials in many parts of the country are being given training so that they can detect the virus," he said.
Steps are also underway to print leaflets on the swine flu preventive measures for distribution among inbound international passengers and mass people to heighten their alertness, he said.
Apart from this, the country's fisheries and livestock ministry officials have been asked to carry out fresh test on pigs alongside monitoring the situation in the areas where people farm swine at large.
However, Health Minister Haque Wednesday urged people not to be panicked rather be cautious to prevent outbreak of swine flu.
Rashid Thursday confirmed that so far there is no report of swine flu infection in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh was fighting with bird flu in the last two years since the virus was first detected in a poultry farm near Dhaka in March 2007.
The situation deteriorated during December 2007 and February 2008 as the virus spread fast across the country with the H5N1 virus outbreaks reported in 47 out of the country's total 64 districts.
About 50 percent of the country's 150,000 poultry farms were closed and more than 1.5 million chickens, ducks and pigeons were culled as of the end of March 2008.