India steps up surveillance for Ebola virus disease

India steps up surveillance for Ebola virus disease

Harsh Vardhan 0608New Delhi (ISJ): India stepped up surveillance for Ebola virus disease, with the deadly disease taking a toll of 887 in the four worst-affected West African nations of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. An estimated 44,700 Indian nationals are living in these countries and the government has also alerted all airports and ports to screen passengers originating or transiting from these countries.

Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan told Parliament on Wednesday (Aug. 06), it has been made mandatory for passengers coming from these countries to report at airports/ports for screening for any symptoms of the disease. New Delhi expects, if the situation worsens in the affected countries, there could be possibility of Indians travelling back.

According to Defence Ministry, there are about 7000 Indian troops deployed in the African continent, but not in the affected countries. The Ministry has asked the armed forces to suitably advise its personnel in the affected region to take appropriate health precautions to reduce the risk of contracting any infection. Further, Indian troops returning from the affected countries would be suitably tracked and monitored for symptoms by the Armed Forces.

Ebola virus is a Filovirus with 5 distinct species. The specific virus isolated in the current outbreak is Zaire Ebola Virus. Ebola Virus Disease is a severe, often fatal illness with fatality rate of upto 90 per cent. In Africa, fruit bats are known to carry Ebola Virus from whom the animals (chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, and forest antelopes) get infected. Humans get the infection either from the infected animals or from infected humans when they come in close contact with infected body fluids or body secretions. There is no airborne transmission. During the current outbreak, most of the disease has spread through human to human transmission. The incubation period of Ebola virus disease is 2-21 days, during which the affected persons are not infective.

There is no vaccine or curative therapy for Ebola virus disease, but outbreaks can be contained through early detection and isolation of cases, contact tracing and monitoring, and following rigorous procedures for infection control.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan however, claimed the risk of transmission of Ebola to countries outside African region is ?low?.

?As a matter of abundant precaution, however, we would be obtaining the details of travelers originating or transiting from Ebola virus affected countries to India from the concerned Airlines and our Missions and tracking these persons after their arrival in India, up to their final destination in the country,? said Dr. Harsh Vardhan.

Indian foreign ministry has also issued advisory to travellers to avoid the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria till such time the Ebola virus disease outbreak situation is brought under control.

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