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Two swine flu carriers linked to Dubai airport, officials say

Two more airline passengers who stopped in Dubai are in quarantine in India after testing positive for swine flu.

ABU DHABI // Two more airline passengers who stopped in Dubai are in quarantine in India after testing positive for swine flu. The disease was diagnosed in a 35-year-old mother and her five-year-old son after they changed planes in the UAE while flying from the US to India, officials say. The woman's daughter, who accompanied them, has been quarantined as well, according to Dr V Vijayalakshmi, the deputy director of health services at the Coimbatore Medical College, a government hospital.

"Even though the girl has tested negative for H1N1, we have quarantined her because of her prolonged exposure to both cases," Dr Vijayalakshmi said. Every confirmed case of swine flu in India has involved passengers who have passed through Dubai. The family left New York on May 27 on an Emirates Airline flight and spent an hour and a half in Dubai before boarding another Emirates flight to Chennai.

The next day, they boarded a local flight on Kingfisher Airlines to Coimbatore, 500km south-west of Chennai in the state of Tamil Nadu. In the US, the family had spent time in Boston, where they were visiting the children's father. 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."

There now have been three confirmed swine flu cases in India, including the first case, which was detected in a 23-year-old man travelling from New York to Hyderabad via Dubai on an Emirates flight last month. Within an hour of disembarking, the mother in the most recent case took her son to the medical college after he started displaying symptoms, including a fever. Dr Kumaran 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 Vijayalakshmi said the authorities tracked down 43 of the 55 passengers who were on the Kingfisher flight and would work with Emirates about the other flights. Dr Cliff Webster, Emirates' chief medical adviser, said: "Emirates is assisting the Indian health authorities in their efforts to contact passengers of flight EK 542 (Dubai-Chennai). 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 disembarking in Dubai also are screened by thermal scanners, and Emirates crew members returning from North and South America also undergo temperature checks. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has confirmed its first case of swine flu. A nurse travelling from the Philippines on Gulf Air has been quarantined after she was diagnosed with the H1N1 virus on Monday.

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by Praveen Menon

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