BANGALORE: As the deadly Ebola outbreak spreads rapidly outside West Africa, virologists in the city have expressed confidence that the country’s health system can handle any cases here.
Dr Shashidhar Buggi, medical director of Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases, says, “It is important to isolate patients and have separate wards. Facilities that were utilised for H1N1 cases in the city are being kept ready for possible Ebola cases.”
He says those who deal with Ebola patients need to be covered from head to toe, with a mask, cap and shoes, and also carry at all times a personal protection kit.
Virologist Arunkumar Govindakarnavar, head of Manipal Centre for Virus Research, says biosafety level 3 is enough in laboratories that deal with diagnosing the virus. Biosafety levels prescribe the precautionary measures necessary to contain dangerous viruses, and range from the lowest level 1 to the highest 4.
“Biosafety level 4 measures are required to culture the Ebola virus, and we have a laboratory with biosafety level 4 only at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune,” he said.
The government has put airports on alert. Health authorities have increased surveillance and people from west Africa and Nigeria are being monitored, says Arunkumar. Anyone with a suspected infection will be quarantined and their blood samples sent to the National Centre for Disease Control in New Delhi and NIV.
Dr B Tandale from NIV is the expert designated by the government to talk about Ebola. But he refused to answer questions when contacted by Express.
Arunkumar says, “Ebola is not an airborne infection but is transmitted through bodily fluids (blood, saliva and sweat).
“Therefore, the infection can be carried only through close relatives and hospital staff as the transmission is contact based. It is not like what happened in H1N1, where environmental conditions played a role.”
He said even if the Ebola virus enters the country, “we can try to contain it since the incubation period is 2-21 days, during which time the patient shows no symptoms and cannot transmit the disease.”