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.