While the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared West Africa’s Ebola epidemic an international health emergency on Friday, the state government and Airport Health Organisation (APHO) have already put various precautions in place to ensure that the deadly virus does not spread here.
According to the protocol for Ebola cases, doctors are meant to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), while patients should be kept in isolated units to prevent a further spread of the virus
The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), caused by the Ebola virus, is a high fatality-disease, with symptoms like fever, nausea, diarrhoea and bleeding. The Ebola epidemic in West Africa has seen hundreds diagnosed in the four countries Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and Liberia. A total of 728 patients have died from the disease in the current outbreak so far.
A poster illustrating the protocol for dealing with suspected cases of EVD. Pics/AFP
About 300 passengers travel to the city from West Africa every month. While the BMC had decided on a set of protocols for the airport authorities to follow in order to check the disease’s entry into the country, APHO is on its toes with its own preparations.
Notices have been placed all over the airport to inform passengers of the disease’s symptoms and risks. A medical counter was set up at Terminal 2 at the international airport at the beginning of the month. APHO doctors will be present at the counter around the clock ready to examine passengers, particularly those arriving by eight flights that pass through West Africa.
Speaking to mid-day, Airport Health Officer Dr C R Shivdikar said, “EVD is highly lethal with a mortality rate of 90 per cent.” However, Shivdikar added that the disease was not an immediate risk because the virus is not airborne.
“It spreads through the exchange of body fluids like blood and saliva, and also through sexual contact. The treating doctors need to have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that should be changed each time they examine a patient,” he said.
Passengers travelling by Emirates, Kenya and Ethiopian Airlines on routes that take them through West Africa will be handed forms with questions about their health status and history.
If a passenger indicates that he has more than four of the common EVD symptoms, he will be taken to Kasturba Hospital, which has been set up with an isolation room specifically for suspected EVD cases. If the number of patients exceeds the capacity at Kasturba Hospital, they will be taken to JJ Hospital, said officials.
A senior doctor at the airport said, “There will be three cardiac ambulances ready on the airside of terminal 2, as well as the domestic and cargo terminals. Additionally, three more ambulances will remain on standby at the nearby fire station. Blood tests will be conducted at Kasturba hospital and will then be sent to the laboratory in Pune.”
According to WHO protocol, if a passenger is diagnosed with EVD, the authorities will follow up with fellow passengers who were seated nearby. The follow up period will last for 21 days, as the virus has an incubation period between two and 21 days, during which the disease can still be passed on, said Dr Shivdikar.