But the government is putting contingency measures in place, informs the minister
Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan held a meeting with senior officers from different ministries to discuss a strategy to address the Ebola virus disease at his office today.
The health minister had earlier spoken on the issue in both Houses of Parliament on 6 August. Following is the transcript of his speech:
I would like to brief the honourable members on the reports of Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa and the action taken by the Government of India in this regard.
World Health Organisation has reported 1,603 cases including 887 deaths (as on 4 August 2014) in West Africa from 4 countries, namely Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. While the number of cases is 485, 468, 646 and 4 from the said countries, the number of deaths is 358, 255, 273 and 1 respectively.
Ebola virus is a Filovirus with 5 distinct species. The specific virus isolated in the current outbreak is Zaire Ebola virus. Ebola virus disease is a severe, often fatal illness with Case Fatality Rate of upto 90%. In Africa, fruit bats are known to carry Ebola Virus from whom the animals (chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelopes) get infected. Humans get the infection either from the infected animals or from infected humans when they come in close contact with infected body fluids or body secretions. There is no airborne transmission. During the current outbreak, most of the disease has spread through human to human transmission. The incubation period of Ebola virus disease is 2-21 days, during which the affected persons are not infective.
The director general of health services, Government of India, has reviewed the situation on 2 May 2014 and on 1 August 2014. Thereafter, advisories were issued to the State Disease Surveillance Units to be on alert for early detection and management of travel related cases reported from the community. Laboratory capacity was also strengthened at National Institute of Virology, Pune and National Centre for Disease Control, Delhi, to diagnose this viral disease.
The Ministry of External Affairs has informed that there are about 4,700 Indians in Republic of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from where maximum cases are reported. The number in each of these countries is 500, 3,000 and 1,200 respectively. The figure for Liberia includes about 300 personnel from the Indian Central Reserve Police Force, comprising largely women, as a part of the UN Peace keeping operations. Nigeria has a much larger presence of nearly 40,000 Indian citizens. If the situation worsens in the affected countries, there could be possibility of these Indians traveling back to India. The Ministry of Defence has informed that there are about 7,000 Indian troops deployed in the African continent, but not in the affected countries.
I have on 5 August 2014, reviewed the status of the situation in a meeting which was attended by representatives from the Ministries/ Departments of Health and Family Welfare, Home Affairs (including immigration department), External Affairs and Civil Aviation. In addition, representative of Armed Forces, National Disaster Management Authority and World Health Organisation were also present. The threat perception for India, precautions and preventive measures to be taken by us, advisories to be issued etc. were discussed in detail.
I would like to brief the honourable Members of Parliament that as of now, the risk of transmission to countries outside African region is low. As a matter of abundant precaution, however, we would be obtaining the details of travelers originating or transiting from Ebola virus affected countries to India from the concerned airlines and our missions and tracking these persons after their arrival in India, up to their final destination in the country. For such purposes, awareness would be created among the Indian community in these countries and among travelers to India from affected countries. Mandatory self reporting by the passengers coming from or transiting through the affected countries would be required at the time of immigration check. In-flight announcements regarding this would also be made by the airlines. There would be designated facilities at the relevant airports/ports to manage travelers manifesting symptoms of the disease. The surveillance system would be geared up to track these travelers for four weeks and to detect them early, in case they develop symptoms. These persons would also be advised to self report in case of symptoms.
The armed forces would be taking action to suitably advise their personnel in the affected Region for appropriate health precautions and to apprise them about reducing the risk of contracting this infection. Further, their personnel returning to India on leave or otherwise coming back would be suitably tracked and monitored for symptoms by the armed forces.
The States/Union Territory administrations are being requested to identify nodal officers and designate hospitals with isolation wards for responding to any possible cases. States would also be asked to keep in readiness personal protective equipment for protecting health care workers and doctors. Public awareness would be created through print and audio visual media. Treatment and diagnostic protocols for Ebola virus will be placed on our website and disseminated to various stakeholders. The Indian Medical Association is also being requested to inform all the members regarding the diagnostic and treatment protocols.
In view of the reports of outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in 4 countries of West Africa, namely, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, it is recommended that non-essential travel to these countries be deferred till such time that the Ebola virus disease outbreak situation is brought under control.
Though there is no vaccine or curative therapy for Ebola virus disease, I want to apprise this house that outbreaks can be contained through early detection and isolation of cases, contact tracing and monitoring, and following rigorous procedures for infection control, if such cases were to report in our country.
I would like to assure the honourable members that all precautions are being taken by us. The situation is being monitored. While the risk of Ebola virus cases in India is low, preparedness measures are in place to deal with any case of the virus imported to India.
“As of today, this moment, there is no Ebola case reported in India. There is no need to panic,” the health minister told reporters outside Parliament today.
World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday officially declared the current outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) as the “most complex outbreak leading to public health emergency”. It has called for global health alert in all countries.
As of August 4, WHO says 1,711 people have been infected, of whom 932 have died. The four countries affected are all in western Africa– Guinea (393 deaths), Sierra Leone (286 deaths), Liberia (282 deaths) and Nigeria (1 death).
The Union Ministry of Health has opened a 24-hour “Emergency Operation Centre” (Helpline) which will be functional from Saturday, August 9. Its numbers are (011)-23061469, 3205 and 1302.
Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister, has assured that the government had begun to take steps ahead of the WHO declaration. “There is no cause for panic. We have put in operation the most advanced surveillance and tracking systems,” he announced.
In New Delhi, the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital has been identified for treatment and management of any case of EVD.
The Ministry was alerted by WHO about a traveller who landed in New Delhi on July 20 as a confirmed case of EVD. He had been traced to Dwarka in south-west Delhi. This person was found to be healthy. He has been provided with all necessary guidelines for self-monitoring and asked to report to the authorities in case of manifestation of symptoms.
A mechanism has been worked out in consultation with the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Ministry of Home Affairs for collection and collation of information on travellers to India through the affected countries. Flight passengers will be made to mandatorily declare through health cards their movement in the recent past and their addresses in India.
The database thus developed would help in the tracking of people who later develop symptoms.
Surveillance is being strengthened at airports and ports. The Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) is on alert. The National Institute of Virology, Pune and National Centre for Disease Control in Delhi are prepared to test samples for diagnosis.
In addition, the estimated 47,000 Indians in the affected countries are being contacted by the Indian missions and supplied all didactic material so as to create awareness about prevention and self-reporting measures.
The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare is working in close coordination with the state governments to implement its action plan. The Chief Secretaries of all states have been informed on the need for strengthening their own tracking, surveillance and isolation facilities.