"That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history."
India's response to the current outbreak of the Ebola Virus leaves a lot to be desired.
India has one nurse per 1,000 people, according to the 2010 World Bank data compared to 10 nurses for every 1,000 in the US. The prevalence of malaria, dengue and other fever-inducing diseases makes it tough to isolate people displaying symptoms of early onset of Ebola. So far the country has only two laboratories — the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Delhi and the National Institute of Virology in Pune — to test the virus .
The screening of passengers travelling from African countries to India is raising questions . Passengers voluntarily fill forms with information on their travel to Africa including any symptoms of fever, cough or cold. Airline crews also look out for passengers having extreme symptoms. Airports in Delhi and Mumbai have thermal cameras to check for passengers having fever. But according to an official: "Our airports have screening desks in the arrival area before immigration. People who disclose symptoms are screened and suspected cases are immediately sent in isolation to hospitals. Aircraft are taken to remote bays if its crew report suspected cases on board. The plane is fumigated and the suspected person sent to a designated hospital. Passengers are then allowed to deplane," .
It is not foolproof to leave the disclosure to passengers. From the recent history of the August 2009 H1N1 Swine Flu outbreak in India, similar measures were put in place after the March 2009 outbreak in the US and Mexico . But it resulted in 1444 deaths and 20,164 cases as of March 24, 2010 . This current strain of the Ebola virus is far more lethal and can spread more rapidly.
Since we have an able Prime Minister in Narendra Modi and a reputed doctor as our Health minister in Dr. Harsh Vardhan, I hope the issue is taken up with all the importance and seriousness it deserves. There needs to be close coordination with health organizations and countries around the world to find out best practices and we need to implement innovative solutions to tailor them for a country like India. If not, it could be an impending disaster waiting to happen.
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