The first case of the deadly coronavirus reported from Nepal has led to a scare in eastern Uttar Pradesh, particularly Gorakhpur, because of its proximity to Nepal and the heavy traffic flow across the porous border.

R. N. Singh, a doctor-campaigner for ‘Mission Save in India’, said: “The virus is deadly and has already claimed lives in many countries. A case has been reported from Nepal too. We share 1,751 km long open border with Nepal and checking virus only at the airport and not on borders will be an exercise in futility. Health check-posts should be established at entry points on the Indo-Nepal border to check the entry of the virus in the country.”

Checking for the virus has already started at the airport, but the open border between the two countries should also be monitored, he said.

Medical experts in the region feel that there is an urgent need to create awareness about the deadly virus in the area, especially in the rural interiors.

The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to any other upper-respiratory infection, including running nose, coughing, sore throat, and sometimes a fever.

“When the symptoms appear, people believe that it is a flu which is a normal thing in this season. It is only when the condition gets beyond repair that people come to the hospitals and by then, the patient is firmly in the grip of coronavirus,” said M. M. Sahay, a local medical practitioner.

Gorakhpur, which is close to the Indo-Nepal border, has a sizeable population that commutes daily to Nepal through Sunauli and Badhni borders. Steps have already been initiated for the screening of the virus at the airport, but experts believe that health check-up along the open border is more important to check the entry of infection to India.

R. N. Singh further said that health check posts should be set up, along the Uttar Pradesh-Nepal border just like it had been done during the SARS epidemic in 2002.

An awareness campaign was also needed to inform people that patients with cold, cough and fever must immediately be reported to the nearest hospital.

“Around half-a-dozen cases of coronavirus have also been detected in Thailand. Many people from here also go to Thailand and people from the country visit Gorakhpur. Health check-posts are the need of the hour,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chief medical officer (CMO) Srikant Tiwari said that an isolation ward would soon be set up at the district hospital.

“As of now, no case of coronavirus has been reported in Gorakhpur, but the department is ready to deal with the situation. An isolation ward will be constructed at the district hospital soon,” the CMO said.