India has installed thermal scanners at international airports to “secretly” screen passengers for fever to avoid panic in view of the raging Ebola epidemic in West Africa and other areas, a senior health ministry official said on Tuesday.
Two scanners placed at special immigration counters in each of these airports will become operational on Wednesday to monitor people coming from, or those who have travelled through, Ebola-hit countries.
“This was a conscious decision as there have been instances in the past where people have objected to the process in fear of getting quarantined,” said the official.
The health ministry outlined its Ebola action plan to tackle the deadly disease that has killed over 4,500 people and infected more than 9,200 in seven countries this year, the world’s worst outbreak since the virus was identified in 1976.
“These scanners that have made Nigeria’s success story possible resemble the radar guns used by police officers to catch speeding motorists and can detect high body temperature among people queued up before immigration counters. Fever is one of the commonest EVD (Ebola virus disease) symptoms,” said health minister Harsh Vardhan. Nigeria was declared Ebola-free by the WHO on Monday and India is keen on following the same surveillance-tracking systems for the disease.
“Our officials used thermal scanners when SARS and H1N1 broke out some years back. We have a couple of scanners for each of the 18 airports and will procure more if need be,” the minister said.
A guidance paper from the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta outlined all the aspects of operating these thermal scanners.
“There is a need for constant maintenance, frequent calibration and training of people using them,” Vardhan said.
Health authorities at Delhi’s IGI Airport conducted a mock drill on Tuesday to test the alertness of the Ebola detection centres there. Similar tests will be carried out at all the airports in the country in a few days and at regular intervals.
All international airlines possibly carrying infected persons have been asked to keep an eye on passengers in case someone displays signs of Ebola when a plane is airborne.