India to screen, track passengers from Ebola-affected region

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New Delhi: India today announced a slew steps in the light of the outbreak of Ebola virus in west African countries, including screening and tracking of passengers originating or transiting from there, and asked its nationals to defer non-essential travel to that region.

There are close to 45,000 Indians in affected countries. If the situation worsens in these countries, there could be possibility of Indians staying there travelling back to India, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan today informed Parliament.

"All precautions are being taken by us. While the risk of Ebola virus cases in India is low, preparedness measures are in place to deal with any case of the virus imported to India," the minister said in a statement.

World Health Organisation has reported 1603 cases, including 887 deaths, till August 4 in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The number of cases is 485, 468, 646 and four from these countries respectively and the corresponding death toll is 358, 255, 273 and 1 respectively.

Mandatory self reporting by the passengers coming from or transiting through the affected countries would be required at immigration check, Vardhan said, adding in-flight announcements regarding this would also be made by the airlines.

 "There would be designated facilities at the relevant airports/ports to manage travellers manifesting symptoms of the disease. The surveillance system would be geared up to track these travellers for four weeks and to detect them early, in case they develop symptoms," he said.

Vardhan said the risk of transmission of the virus to countries outside African region is "low" but "we would obtain details of travellers originating or transiting through affected countries to India and tracking these persons after their arrival up to their final destination".

A review meeting was held yesterday which was attended by representatives from the health, home, external affairs and civil aviation ministries besides those from armed forces, National Disaster Management Authority and WHO. 

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