India readies its Ebola action plan

India has put in place the same surveillance-tracking systems for checking the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) which have succeeded in Nigeria, leading to the African nation being declared “Ebola-Free” by the World Health Organization


The government also opened a round-the-clock helpline to respond to people's queries on Ebola. This has helped in disseminating information and spreading awareness among the people

The union health minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan pointed out that India already has a highly rated integrated disease surveillance network. "We have removed all stops to constantly upgrade equipment and retrain staff and are in the process of further strengthening them," he said.

Dr Vardhan who held a meeting of officials from the health ministry, along with representatives of the ministries of defence, civil aviation, home, shipping, external affairs, some state governments, the Indian army, navy, and national disaster management authority, said all international airports and sea ports will soon be fitted with thermal scanners and other EVD detection equipment for 24x7 deployment. Officials of the WHO and the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention were also present.

The use of thermal scanners, which has made Nigeria's success possible, is widely prevalent in most of the 15 major airports, often two to each. A further lot of scanners will be purchased and installed over the next few days at the minister's orders.

Dr Harsh Vardhan said, "These scanners, which resemble the radar guns used by police officers to catch speeding motorists, can detect high body temperature among people queued up before immigration counters. Fever is one of the most common symptoms of EVD. Our officials have already used thermal scanners when SARS broke out in Southeast Asia some years back."

He pointed out that a guidance paper produced by the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, has outlined all the facets of operating this hardware. "There is a need for constant maintenance, frequent calibration and carrying out of training of people using them," the minister said.


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