KOLLAM: Against the backdrop of the World Health Organisation (WHO) classifying the outbreak of Ebola in West African countries as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), the State Government is likely to issue a directive to the three international airports of Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Karipur to screen passengers from West African countries affected by the outbreak.
A high-level meeting will be convened at the chamber of the Health Minister on Monday, which is expected to evaluate the precautionary measures taken by the Directorate of Health Services.
It is also said that the Chief Minister will call a meeting of the health officials on the same day to discuss the issue, though an official confirmation is yet to be issued in this regard.
‘’We are currently working in accordance with the guidelines issued by the WHO and the passengers arriving from the Ebola-affected countries will be screened closely at the international airports. We may also think of opening quarantine centres near these airports to address any emergency situation,’’ said P K Jameela, Director of Health Services. The screening of passengers will be conducted by the Health Department with thehelp of the Bureau of Immigration, round the clock. She also added that no case of Ebola was reported from the state so far. An official with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) told ‘Express’ that they have started monitoring passengers in the wake of the WHO directive though an official communication is yet to be received from the Health Department.
The official also added that the quarantine centres at the international airports may not be able to handle Ebola cases as they lack the facilities needed to check the spread of this virus. The WHO reminds that healthcare workers have frequently been infected through close contact with the Ebola patients when precautionary measures are not strictly practiced. It was on Friday that the WHO declared Ebola outbreak in West Africa as a PHEIC and mentioned it as the largest and longest outbreak in history. According to WHO, Ebola virus disease (EVD), outbreaks have a fatality rate of up to 90 per cent and no licenced specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals. In humans it is spread through the direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids, according to WHO.
The most affected West African countries are Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. And to quote from the statistics available with the WHO, between August 2 and 4 a total of 108 new cases of Ebola virus and about 45 deaths were reported from these countries. The disease outbreak was first reported from Guinea inDecember 2013.