New Delhi, Aug. 12: The Centre has requested the chief secretaries of all states to track and monitor the health of passengers arriving from west African countries affected by Ebola and strengthen hospital facilities for isolating patients.
The passenger-monitoring programme will be part of a tracking plan the Union health ministry had announced last week amid concerns that infected travellers from the four Ebola-affected countries — Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria — might carry the virus into India.
More than 1,000 patients, among more than 1,800 infected with the Ebola virus in the four countries, have so far died from the infection since early this year. While no case has surfaced in India yet, the health ministry and other government agencies are trying to strengthen preparedness to detect and manage patients infected with Ebola.
The health ministry has announced plans to train immigration officers at India’s airports and advise crew of international airlines about how to manage patients with symptoms on board before the aircraft lands in India. The ministry has said passengers from the affected countries should be tracked for up to 28 days as the gestation period of the Ebola virus can be up to 21 days.
The Union cabinet, secretary who called a meeting today with the health, civil aviation, home, and information and broadcasting secretaries to review the government’s preparedness for Ebola, has suggested a mechanism for systematic, easy and effective sharing of information between the different ministries on passengers travelling to India from the affected countries.
The Ebola virus is picked up only through close contact with the infected body fluids or body secretions of patients. The virus does not spread through air and, public health experts say, health care workers and family members are among those at risk of contracting the infection from patients.
“The airlines have been asked to keep first aid and universal precaution kits, including masks, sanitisers and disposal gloves and bags. Aircraft crew would also ask passengers to fill up special health forms for submitting information regarding visit to any affected country in the last 21 days, among other things,” a DGCA official said.
Also, all airlines would have to send details of passengers boarding from affected countries in advance to the station of arrival in India.
“Keep a record of all passengers and families who are returning to India after visiting west African countries and informing the details to concerned airport health officers,” DGCA said in its directive.
The DGCA also said medical personnel have been deployed at all the airports around the country where international air services are operated.