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Fears growing about the worst ever Ebola outbreak. Government of India takes key precautionary measures.

The WHO said 4,033 people have died from Ebola as of October 8 out of a total of 8,399 registered cases in seven countries. The sharp rise in deaths came as the UN said pledges of aid to fight the outbreak have fallen well short of the $1 billion needed.Beyond West Africa, where almost all of the deaths have occurred, fears are growing about the worst-ever Ebola epidemic.

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Ebola is a deadly virus with a long incubation period. It is a communicable disease and spreads by direct contact with a patient’s blood or other bodily fluids like urine, saliva or sweat.The largest ebola outbreak in history is currently running out of control in West Africa.

More than half the people who are infected with Ebola die from it, but it takes between 8-21 days for the symptoms to show up once a person is infected. This is why it can become an international epidemic.

India is among the top five contributors to the UN Ebola response with a contribution of $ 12.5 million, according to a fact sheet released by US Secretary of State John Kerry .The US with $ 113.8 million tops the list to the UN Ebola response. It is followed by the European Union ($ 55.5 million), Canada ($ 31.9 million), Netherlands (21 million) and India with $ 12.5 million. Cuba is sending over 500 health professionals.

The India health ministry and WHO have also been working together to formulate a plan in case of an outbreak in India. According to the Health Ministry, passengers have been screened for Ebola since 10 August by Airport Health Officers at Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Trivandrum and Kochi.

Though no patient has been detected in India with the virus till now, even a single imported case can create much damage in a densely populated country such as India.

Prof. Peter Piot, one of the researchers who discovered the virus, warns that “the virus does not augur well for India”. In a recent interview with Der Spiegel -a german daily, Prof.Peter Piot,  said that “an Ebola outbreak in North America or Europe can be brought under control but the disease is a greater risk for India” .He  is the Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He adds that “doctors and nurses in public hospitals in India do not wear gloves, and this will only serve to exacerbate the spread of the disease”.

(To read more about Ebola in 1976 and Professor Piot’s first association with Ebola click here.)

An article in the Hindu, written recently by Dr. Soumini Ramesh and Mridula Ramesh supports Prof. Peter’s views. According to them,  “Ebola would become a pandemic when it hits India. We are a poor country with health systems that are already stretched in the “season” of disease. We have one nurse per 1,000 people (according to 2010 World Bank data) compared to 1.6 nurses that Nigeria has or the 10 nurses that the U.S. has for 1,000 people. The U.S. has systems and adequate resources to effectively track and isolate victims of Ebola. Most importantly, they have a far lower population density”. Prevention is the best solution, they say.“Prevent all persons originating from the three hardest-hit nations — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia — from coming into India, no matter what their status (health or otherwise)”.Dr. Soumini Ramesh is chief medical director, Sri Krishna hospital, Madurai, and Mridula Ramesh is executive director, Sundaram Textiles Ltd.

FirstPost spoke to Monika Puri, a specialist in community medicine and a Senior Resident at Lady Hardinge Medical College in New Delhi about how the spread of the Ebola virus can be checked and whether India is equipped to take on the challenge.According to her, it is crucial to stop the importation of the virus into India and if there is importation, the government has to be ready to isolate and quarantine such a patient. Eventually, as she says the mortality and morbidity will wane off like in the case of Swine Flu because the population will start developing immunity.

The government of India has taken some key precautionary steps. The National Institute of Virology at Pune is fully equipped to handle the testing work relating to Ebola virus and the National Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC), Delhi, for molecular diagnosis. Ten other laboratories in various places will be strengthened to handle this work. Also, state governments have identified hospitals and isolation wards for Ebola treatment. Training of doctors for the disease was also organised by the Health Ministry from October 19 to October 21 in Delhi which will also included demonstrations and mock drills.

Ebola Outbreak Update- international

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