NEW DELHI: Bracing to deal with Ebola epidemic which has claimed more than 4000 lives globally, the government today took stock of the measures being undertaken for strengthening the preparedness, surveillance and response system in states.
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A decision of imparting training to health officials of all states on ways and means to detect and prevent Ebola was taken in a high-level meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth. The state officials will undergo training in Delhi on October 19-21 and they will return to their respective states and impart training to other officials, government sources said.
In a video conferencing with Chief Secretaries/ Health Secretaries of 19 states/UTs which have international airport/seaport, Seth took stock of the measures being undertaken for strengthening the preparedness, surveillance and response system in the respective states. Secretaries of Ministries of Health, Home, Shipping, Civil Aviation, External Affairs and Department of Health Research were also present at the meeting.
Even as the Health Ministry will continue to monitor the situation, a control room has been set up at the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. The numbers are 23063205, 23061469 and 23061302. Chief Secretaries have been asked to convene meetings of the State Crisis Management Group at regular intervals for continued vigilance and preparedness.
Some state governments also expressed the need for supply of adequate number of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gear. 50,000 PPE gear procured earlier and available with the central government will be distributed to the states. They have been advised to procure PPEs based on specifications of the Health Ministry.
The Cabinet Secretary has also asked all chief secretaries to set up proper mechanism to check each of the traveler entering the country through airports and ports of their respective state, so that no person with Ebola virus can "sneak into" the country.
"The protocol/preparedness measures including infection control practices to be followed by the states/UTs have already been communicated. The state governments told the meeting that these protocols have been put in place and all inbound passengers are being screened," a statement from the Ministry of Health and Family Planning said.
Hospitals and isolation wards have been identified by respective state governments for Ebola treatment. Central teams have been asked to inspect the adequacy of preparations in these hospitals.
"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, including Delhi, Dibrugarh, Port Blair, Kolkata, Manipal, Lucknow, Guwahati, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Thiruvananthapuram, Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Jaipur and Agra will be strengthened to handle this work," the statement added.
Experts say Ebola is transmitted by close contact with the bodily fluids of a person who is showing symptoms of infection such as fever, aches, vomiting and diarrhoea or who has recently died of the hemorrhagic virus.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has been asked to make inflight announcement regarding the virus and its symptoms. A health screening card and advisory for passengers has also been prepared and information is being collected from the passengers arriving from/transiting through the affected countries.
Thermal scanners are being deployed at different airports in the country.
"Immigration officers have been trained and crew members of flights have also been sensitised on the measures to be taken by the airline crew and on the standard operating procedures for passenger screening at the airports by Airport Health Organisations," the statment added.
State governments have been asked to maintain coordination with all ports, including minor ports, so that ship crew are also screened properly.
Till October 14, 22150 passengers have been screened, of which 7 were identified to be at medium risk and 56 at high risk while the others were categorised at low risk. Low risk passengers are given general advice on the virus while medium and high risk passengers are kept under observation for a further period of 30 days and their blood samples tested.
A tracking system has been put in place under the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP). No case of Ebola has so far been reported in the country although WHO has reported about 9000 cases and 4493 deaths globally.