The Risk of Ebola in India

  • With current flight schedules, scientists say there is a 75 per cent chance that Ebola could reach France and a 50 per cent that it could reach the U.K. by the end of the month.
  • The three African nations at the epicentre of the Ebola earthquake are Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
  • All the countries are French-speaking and have several flight connections to France — hence the high risk to France.
  • Heathrow Airport is one the world’s main airline hubs, so the high risk to the U.K.
  • Ebola is a lethal virus with a long incubation period. 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 .
  • This now provides the making of a global epidemic — an Indian nurse working in Monrovia, Liberia, could come home infected with Ebola. She could pass through the airport thermal scanners and go home — completely asymptomatic. When she comes down with the disease, she will be initially treated with love and care by her family members; none of whom will wear gloves or masks. They will be infected. She may finally have to go in, very sick and contagious, to a local hospital. Fearful of quarantine and death, she may not reveal (or more likely not be asked) that she came from Liberia. The symptoms of an acute Ebola infection — high fever, headaches, nausea, diarrhoea — are the same as many of our home-grown but less fatal viruses. The epidemic will spread.
  • Professor Peter Piot, the discoverer of Ebola, has said, “An outbreak in Europe or North America would quickly be brought under control. I am more worried about the many people from India who work in trade or industry in West Africa.”
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Our best course of action is prevention. Prevent all persons originating from the three hardest-hit nations from coming into India, no matter what their status (health or otherwise). Pre-boarding scrutiny of passports will accomplish this.
  • Also, how many Indian healthcare workers are working in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia?
  • Has due care (quarantine for instance) been exercised when they have returned to India?
  • How many passengers travel from the countries mentioned earlier to India every day? What are the main ports of embarkation? What are the preventive procedures in place today?