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India's Ebola Action Plan
Oct 25, 2014

India has put in place the same surveillance-tracking systems for checking the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) which has succeeded in Nigeria leading to the African nation being declared Ebola-Free by World Health Organisation. India already has a highly rated integrated disease surveillance network. It has removed all stops to constantly upgrade equipment and retrain staff and are in the process of further strengthening them.

The Health Ministry, along with representatives of the Ministries of Defence, Civil Aviation, Home, Shipping, External Affairs, some state governments, the Indian Army, Navy and National Disaster Management Authority, trying all international airports and sea ports to soon be fitted out with thermal scanners and other EVD detection equipment for 24x7 deployment. 

The use of thermal scanners, which has made Nigeria’s success possible, is widely prevalent in most of the 15 major airports, often two to each. A further lot of scanners will be purchased and installed soon. These scanners, which resemble the radar guns used by police officers to catch speeding motorists, can detect high body temperature among people queued up before immigration counters. Fever is one of the commonest symptoms of EVD. India has already used thermal scanners when SARS broke out in south-east Asia some years back.

A guidance paper produced by the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, has outlined all the facets of operating this hardware. There is need for constant maintenance, frequent calibration and carrying out training of people using them. 

As of now there has not been a single case of an EVD patient arriving in India. A few people with high body temperature were quarantined and their blood samples sent to two designated laboratories in the country. Another 10 laboratories are being kept on standby in case of necessity. On being tested negative for EVD they were allowed to continue with their journey in the country albeit after leaving their future addresses with the authorities. They are tracked for the remainder of the incubation period of the virus (21 days). 

India held its first meeting on Ebola in early June, whereas WHO declared an international emergency in the last week of August. The government also opened a round-the-clock helpline to respond to people’s queries on Ebola. This has helped in disseminating information and spreading awareness among the people. 

Apart from that Indian Peace Keeping Force personnel stationed in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan are being treated on par with people living in Sierra Leone. They have been sensitized on the preventive steps and whenever a soldier or officer enters India, he is routed only through New Delhi. India is using a war-room approach to coordinate the outbreak response. Its strict procedures for screening all arrivals and communicating with the Indians living in the African continent are in tune with international standards.

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