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How taking precaution against Ebola virus ruined Mumbai man's vacation

Suffering from diarrhoea, vacationing engineer from Nigeria decided to get himself checked for Ebola virus disease; the move ended up in him facing a mosquito-filled quarantine, social ostracisation and a 7-day 'house arrest'

The deadly Ebola virus outbreak may be confined to West Africa, but the fear of contracting the disease seems to have transcended every possible border. While Twitterati in the US are flooding the site with imagined threats ‘A possible Ebola case in New York City? Time to pack for Mars!’ a Mumbai engineer who works in Nigeria ruined his vacation here by getting himself checked for the disease and ending up checking into quarantine.

Also read: BMC gears up to tackle Ebola threat

Lalit Kumar Ahir took a flight from Nigeria to Dubai around 8.30 pm on July 27. He landed in Dubai at 7.30 am on July 28, took a flight for Mumbai at 9.35am on July 28 and landed in the city at 3pm
Lalit Kumar Ahir took a flight from Nigeria to Dubai around 8.30 pm on July 27. He landed in Dubai at 7.30 am on July 28, took a flight for Mumbai at 9.35am on July 28 and landed in the city at 3pm

Lalit Kumar Ahir (31), who was suffering from diarrhoea, says what started out as a precaution ended up in torture and near-total social ostracisation. Ahir, who has been working as an IT professional in Nigeria for seven years, flew down to Mumbai on July 28 to meet his family. He suffered from diarrhoea on August 4 and went to his family doctor, who gave him medicines and told him there was nothing to worry about.

On August 4, Lalit started suffering from diarrhoea.  He consulted his family doctor and was cured in a day after he was given medicines
On August 4, Lalit started suffering from diarrhoea.  He consulted his family doctor and was cured in a day after he was given medicines

Even though his diarrhoea was cured, news of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in four West African countries, including Nigeria, sparked fear in his mind. For his “personal satisfaction”, he called up the Delhi Ebola helpline centre on August 7 and asked for the procedure of getting checked for the disease. He was directed to the civic-run Dr D M Petit Hospital in Vasai, where he was quarantined and kept in isolation on August 10.

On August 7, he heard about the  Ebola outbreak in Nigeria. Worried, he called up the Delhi helpline to get himself checked
On August 7, he heard about the  Ebola outbreak in Nigeria. Worried, he called up the Delhi helpline to get himself checked

“The process of undergoing isolation disturbs you mentally, and the conditions in which I was kept in the hospital were deplorable. I now start feeling sick even when I am not sick. I was bitten by so many mosquitoes in the quarantine room that now I am afraid I might be suffering from malaria or dengue instead of the Ebola virus disease.”

He was directed to the civic-run Dr D M Petit Hospital in Vasai and was quarantined “in a room full of mosquitoes”. He was kept in isolation from 3.30 PM on August 10 and was discharged around 10.30am yesterday after he pleaded to be let go and was declared healthy. Illustration /Amit Bandre
He was directed to the civic-run Dr D M Petit Hospital in Vasai and was quarantined “in a room full of mosquitoes”. He was kept in isolation from 3.30 PM on August 10 and was discharged around 10.30am yesterday after he pleaded to be let go and was declared healthy. Illustration /Amit Bandre

Ahir was quarantined from 3.30 pm on August 10 to 10.30 am yesterday. During this period, he says he was just kept under observation for EVD symptoms and his blood pressure was measured once. Ahir spoke to the doctors in Delhi yesterday and pleaded for a discharge from the hospital saying he could not live in those conditions anymore. He was, hence, discharged around 10.30 am and the doctors claimed he showed no signs of EVD and was healthy.

Problems galore
Ahir’s problems, though, were just beginning. As a safety measure, after his discharge, he has been asked to stay home and not venture out for seven days and also to stay in Mumbai for a month or so until all the formalities are complete.

“My trip to India was supposed to end on August 25 and was looking forward to spending some quality time with my family and friends. With the news of me suffering from the deadly Ebola virus disease spreading, it has nearly become impossible for me to move out of my house. People have started treated me as an untouchable,” said Ahir.

“The news has gone viral to such an extent that it is hampering my social life. I don’t want to deal with all this pressure when I come home after months to spend some leisure time. I decided to undergo tests only for self-satisfaction and it has caused nothing but trauma. I am unable to move out of my house and have been restricted from doing things that I want to,” he added.

His family, too, is suffering. “The situation has caused mental torture not just to him, but to us as well. Everyone has been calling and asking what Lalit had been quarantined for and whether the news is true,” said Ahir’s mother.

Officialspeak
Dr. Rani Badlani, medical officer, Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation said, “We did not take any blood samples of Lalit Kumar Ahir since he did not display any signs and symptoms of Ebola and was declared healthy after he was quarantined. But the patient has been asked to stay at home for the coming seven days.”

How it began
Researchers have revealed that the Ebola outbreak currently sweeping across West Africa may have begun with the death of a two-year-old boy in December 2013. The team of contagious disease experts traced the outbreak to the village of Guéckédou in Guinea, where a toddler died after falling ill with Ebola-like symptoms.

A week after the child’s death on December 6, several members of his family including his mother and grandmother also fell ill and died. The research team believes that two mourners that attended the funeral of the child’s grandmother contracted the disease and infected members of their own community upon their return.

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