The government has announced a slew of steps in the light of the outbreak of Ebola virus in west African countries, including screening and tracking of passengers originating or transiting from there. Currently, there are close to 45,000 Indians in Ebola-affected countries.
The government has asked people to defer non-essential travel to Ebola-affected regions. If the situation worsens in these countries, there could be possibility of Indians staying there travelling back to India, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan informed the Parliament on Wednesday. “While the risk of Ebola virus cases in India is low, preparedness measures are in place to deal with any case of the virus imported to India,” he said.
The outbreak has so far killed 932 people – or around 55 per cent of those known to have been infected – and sickened hundreds more. The disease emerged in the remote forest regions of Guinea, but has since spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
Mandatory self reporting by passengers coming from or transiting through the affected countries would be required at immigration check, Mr Vardhan said, adding that in-flight announcements regarding this would also be made by the airlines. “There would be designated facilities at the relevant airports/ports to manage travellers manifesting symptoms of the disease. The surveillance system would be geared up to track these travellers for four weeks and to detect them early, in case they develop symptoms,” he said.
Mr. Vardhan also said that the risk of transmission of the virus to countries outside the African region is “low” but “we would obtain details of travellers originating or transiting through affected countries to India and tracking these persons after their arrival up to their final destination”.
A review meeting was held yesterday which was attended by representatives from the health, home, external affairs and civil aviation ministries besides those from the armed forces, National Disaster Management Authority and WHO.
A hemorrhagic fever with a fatality rate of up to 90 per cent, Ebola causes symptoms ranging from flu-like pains to internal and external bleeding caused by kidney and liver failure. There is no vaccine or cure for Ebola. However, US health regulators on Wednesday authorized the use of a diagnostic test developed by the Pentagon to help contain the world’s worst outbreak of the deadly virus.
Ebola’s suspected origin is forest bats and it can be transmitted between humans by touching victims or through bodily fluids. The virus was first identified in 1976 in what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Since 1976, there have been 34 known cases and outbreaks of Ebola, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Before the latest outbreak, the deadliest episode was the first, in 1976, which killed 280 people in Central Africa.
Two American aid workers stricken with Ebola in West Africa are now being treated at an Atlanta hospital. Their conditions improved by varying degrees after they received an experimental drug developed by San Diego-based private biotech firm Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc.