JAJARKOT, APR 23 – Twenty-year-old Sushmita Jaishi, a resident of Archhani-5, fell sick while appearing for her SLC examinations at Mannedhunga Higher Secondary School in neighbouring Talegaun.
Her health condition deteriorated rapidly, but she somehow managed to complete her exams. After finishing her papers, Sushmita had to be carried to her home as she was not even able to walk despite being treated at a local health facility.
Sushmita’s family had planned to celebrate her birthday on the 1st of April. But on that very day she breathed her last. She was the first victim of the Jajarkot epidemic that has gripped the area for the past two months. Twenty-six more have died along with her while hundreds have been taken ill due to the flu-like disease that has now been confirmed to be a swine flu outbreak.
According to local health workers, the epidemic broke out from that very SLC exam centre and spread into neighbouring villages. Most of the exempted students, who were in India for work, had recently returned to appear for the exams.
Also, some of the guardians of students appearing in SLC exams were also migrant workers in India and had just returned from there. The students started to fall ill during the SLC exam that started from March 19 after starting to complain of headache, fever, sore throat, dizziness and body ache.
As per the information provided by the exam centre, substitute candidates sat for the exams after 25 SLC students fell seriously ill. Some even stopped appearing for the exams halfway through it. The number of sick persons, both students and their guardians, dramatically increased from March 27 onwards. After the exams were over, two students of Archhani and three from Paink had to be carried home on a stretcher.
“The disease that had at first seemed to be common cold turned into an epidemic. We were surprised when several students started falling ill.
It was raining at the time and the communicable disease spread in no time,” said Pemba Dorje Lama, in-charge at Talegaun Health Post.
Rana Bahadur Shahi, a teacher in Archhani, reiterated that the disease started to spread widely after the exams were finished.
“Most of the students, their family members and neighbours have now fallen sick,” he said.
The villagers were not serious regarding the matter until the flu-like disease started taking lives. “We thought that it was common cold caused due to sudden change in weather,” said former VDC chairman of Talegaun Tapta Bahadur Singh.
When three people died after falling sick on April 14, terror gripped Talegaun villagers. So far, 10 people have died in Paink, six in Talegaun and three in Archhani.
On April 12, a medical team led by Health Minister Khagaraj Adhikari reached Paink on a helicopter and collected samples for laboratory tests in Kathmandu. Three samples later tested positive for swine flu, confirming that the deaths and sickness were indeed caused by swine-flu in the district
“Patients with symptoms of swine flu regularly visit the health camp for treatment. Continuous health service is necessary in affected area until the epidemic comes firmly under control,” said Dr Rajiv Kumar Mahaseth of Nepal Army (NA). The NA has been running a health camp in Archhani to contain the outbreak of swine flu.
Flu-like disease grips Kalikot villages
More than 200 people underwent health check-up in two VDCs of Kalikot district on Wednesday. More than 150 people have fallen ill due to an influenza outbreak in Mehelmudi and Khardu of Ramnakot VDC in the district. Although there are no cases of serious illness, a large number of people have complained of suffering from flu-like symptoms, said Raghu Jan Bam, auxiliary health worker in Khardu.
Dr Rajendra Pang, chief of the Mid-western Regional Health Directorate, said though the symptoms resemble that of swine flu affecting the people in Jajarkot, the lab test has yet to be conducted to confirm the disease.