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Epidemic fear in islands allayed

Port Blair, Jan. 3: A few cases of diarrhoea and malaria were detected in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands today by a high-level medical team led by director-general of health services S.P. Agarwal but experts said they had not come across any sign of an epidemic.

Agarwal said the diseases 'are within expected limits' after the team, comprising senior officials from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, Delhi, the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, Calcutta, and the National Institute of Epidemiology, Chennai, assessed the situation.

However, in order to prevent the outbreak of an epidemic, the team has decided to focus on the following areas:

• Provision of safe drinking water by strengthening chlorination

• Avoiding contamination of water sources

• Improvement of personal hygiene in the island relief camps

• Vaccinating children against measles and recommending doses of Vitamin A

• Strengthening disease surveillance to detect any impending outbreak

The team has also advised augmentation of human resources, medicines, and technical support through a cell set up by the Indian Council for Medical Research in Port Blair.

Meanwhile, the minister of state for home, Sriprakash Jaiswal, said today that the integrated relief command, which has the involvement of the three wings of the armed forces and the administration, will have to submit a plan of action to the Centre within 15 days.

'This is a crucial formality at this juncture, but essential nonetheless since the government will assess the need for aid in the islands on the basis of that report. Only then will the aid be sent,' Jaiswal said.

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