Centre steps up Ebola watch, puts drill in place

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 17, 2014 08:31 IST

The government on Thursday ordered a more extensive drill and also asked states to step up surveillance for Ebola that has ravaged West Africa and also appeared in US and some European countries.

Thermal or body temperature scanners at airports, training for state health officials, Ebola testing laboratories in 10 cities and screening at all entry points were part of the protocol conveyed to states, sources said.

“The US is known for its stringent screening process, and if the virus can reach there, it can reach anywhere, which is why there’s no room for complacency,” health minister Harsh Vardhan said. “Just because there is no reported cases of Ebola so far in India does not mean it will never reach us,” the minister, who is not in Delhi, cautioned.

Read: Ebola neglected because it started in Africa: ex-UN head Kofi Annan

Cabinet secretary Ajit Seth, the country’s top officer, called a meeting of senior officials of the Centre and all the 19 states that have international airports and sea ports on the directions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The meeting was called after WHO warned that West Africa could see up to 10,000 new Ebola cases a week by December.

The worst outbreak of the deadly virus since its discovery in 1976 has killed more than 4,400 people, mainly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The US had reported two cases. India has managed to escape the virus, so far.

More than 22,000 passengers had been screened for Ebola in the country by October 15, a source said. Fifty-six of them were identified as high risk, seven as medium risk while the others were categorised as low risk, a statement release by the government said.

Low-risk passengers are given general advice while medium and high-risk passengers are kept under observation — states keep a track of them — for a month. Their blood samples are tested and so far none have returned positives.

“The Centre has communicated a detailed protocol for states to deal with Ebola,” the statement said. A tracking system has been put in place.
The Centre will give 50,000 pieces of protective gear to states.

Secretaries of home, shipping and representatives of department of health research, civil aviation and external affairs attended the meeting.

States, on their part, said they had identified hospitals and isolation wards for Ebola treatment.

These facilities will be inspected by teams sent from the Centre. The minister will review the preparedness on October 21.

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