With the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the Ebola outbreak in West Africa an international public health emergency, India put its airports on high alert on Friday.
Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union health minister, assured that the government had begun to take steps ahead of the WHO declaration. "There is no cause for panic. We have put in operation the most advanced surveillance and tracking systems," he announced.
All passengers coming from the four Ebola-affected countries -- Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria -- will have to fill a form before landing. The form has a checklist for symptoms and asks travellers from West Africa for information about the places visited and length of stay, along with other important information.
"The form is ready and will be officially released by Saturday. We will request all airlines to direct their staff to distribute the form in-flight, like immigration forms are given before arrival," said Dr Jagdish Prasad, director general of health services, Union ministry of health.The database thus developed would help in the tracking people who later develop symptoms.
In New Delhi, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital has been identified for treatment of any Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) case. A 24-hour emergency helpline will also be functional from Saturday. Its numbers are (011)-23061469, 3205 and 1302.
The estimated 47,000 Indians in the affected countries are being contacted by the Indian missions and supplied educational material to create awareness about the disease.
All you need to know about Ebola
The current Ebola outbreak has recorded 1,711 confirmed cases and 932 deaths in the four Ebola-affected countries since March this year. Ebola is a deadly disease with no known cure. Symptoms include sudden fever, muscle pain and vomiting, followed by external and internal bleeding that leads to death.
"The outbreak is moving faster than we can control it," said Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO, after an emergency meeting on Friday. "We do expect to see more cases and we do believe there are more cases than what's being reported," she added.