Poor sanitation increases Ebola threat in India

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 31, 2014 11:38 IST

Poor sanitation and high population density will make fighting Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) tough, according to Peter Piot — the co-discoverer of the virus, so the next best thing is to tighten screening at airports and block the infection’s entry in India.

The Centre has installed thermal scanners (two per international airport and port) to check the body temperature of passengers coming from the affected countries.

“That is how Nigeria controlled the disease and didn’t allow the number to go beyond two digits. We have followed the same model and put stringent checks in place at 18 international airports and ports to screen suspected cases,” said Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union health minister.

“Poor sanitation infrastructure will make disposal of infectious waste matter discharged from the body near impossible,” said K Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India.

However, Ebola is not an air-borne infection that could have made it even harder to check its spread. Another problem though, is the long incubation period between 2 to 21 days. “The long incubation period means the person has infected a number of people before he or she develops symptoms and get diagnosed,” Reddy added.

Hand hygiene will also be instrumental in controlling the disease — an infected person can transmit it through his or her body fluids such as blood, saliva, sweat, vomit, urine etc.

“We have tackled many air-borne outbreaks successfully in the past. So, there is no need to fret at this level and appreciate our government’s efforts,” said Charu Hans, head of department of microbiology at New Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia hospital.

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