Ebola scare: 45,000 Indians living in affected nations, may bring virus home
New Delhi: Union health minister Harsh Vardhan told the Parliament on Wednesday that a total of 44,700 Indians are living in different countries hit by Ebola, a deadly virus that has claimed 932 lives so far. Vardhan added of this, 300 are CRPF personnel deployed in Liberia for UN peacekeeping operations.
Reportedly, the minister said that 500 Indians were in the Republic of Guinea, 3,000 in Liberia and 1,200 in Sierra Leone, from where the maximum cases have been reported. Nigeria has a much larger presence of nearly 40,000 Indian citizens. "If the situation worsens, there is a possibility of these people returning home," Vardhan said.
Vardhan further said that preparedness measures are in place to deal with any case of the virus imported to India.
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"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," he said.
"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," he added.
Stating that the risk of transmission to countries outside African region is low, Harsh Vardhan said: "As a matter of abundant precaution, however, we would be obtaining the details of travellers 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 travellers 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," he added.
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He further said that 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.
He said 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," he added.
Giving details about the virus, Harsh Vardhan said the Ebola virus disease is a severe, often fatal illness with a case fatality rate of up to 90 per cent.
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He said in Africa, fruit bats are known to carry the virus from whom animals like chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelopes get infected.
He said 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. However, there is no airborne transmission.
He said during the current outbreak, most of the disease has spread through human-to-human transmission. The Minister said the incubation period of the Ebola virus is 2 to 21 days, during which the affected persons are not infective.