Flu screening not foolproof at City airport

Checks not mandatory, passengers are left to declare symptoms

Flu screening not foolproof at City airport

With two persons testing positive for the H1N1 virus and six more suspected cases sent for tests on Monday, Bangalore is now truly on the swine flu map. Yet, passengers arriving at the Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) are screened only if they voluntarily declare that they have a running temperature and cold.

Experts are crying foul, saying that this was simply not good enough to prevent the virus from spreading.

Here’s why measures at BIA ought to be foolproof: The virus is contagious and could spread even with a sneeze and a handshake (if the hands are  not washed). On arrival at the airport, passengers are issued a form seeking information about their health status and details of countries visited. But, only those who disclose their conditions are screened.

For instance, Suchitra, an NRI who arrived a few weeks ago, was allowed to check out from the airport because she replied in the negative to all the questions. “I was just given a form to fill which had some basic questions on common cold and if I had travelled to any other country.  I just ticked ‘no’ for everything and I was allowed to check out,” she recalled.

S N Iyengar, who arrived on Wednesday, recalled that after being handed the form, he was asked questions on whether he had fever or symptoms of cold. A passenger’s temperature was recorded only if he or she admitted to having had the symptoms. Even if this method was considered precautionary enough by the officials, the screening system itself is not protective enough, as former Programme Officer of United Nations Children’s Fund, Dr M Seenappa, says.

“The medical team screening passengers has not covered themselves completely. Besides masks, the team must ensure, they wear full sleeve shirts and protect themselves with surgical gloves always,” he said.

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