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Just being ostrich

A leading Indian financial daily two days ago carried an academic piece which quoted Peter Piot, one of the scientists who discovered Ebola as saying that if the deadly disease is to enter India now through an infected individual and if the infected patient visits a public hospital, all hell may break loose. The scientist is indeed correct in his observation. With India’s public health system in complete disarray and doctors, nurses and even patients not adhering to even the basic forms of protection, Ebola which is a contagious disease will not take much time to spread.

Experts of late have been questioning India’s preparedness for countering the deadly disease for quite some time now. In fact the Indian Medical Association which is the official registered body of doctors and medical practitioners in India has said that India is fortunate in not being a reservoir of the infection. This essentially means that till now the virus doesn’t have a origin in the country. However, the preparedness at the airports should be a cause of worry.

Although all passengers from West African countries are being screened for symptoms on arrival mainly for body temperature deviations, nothing further is being done. With more than 4,700 Indians in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, a disaster is waiting to happen if even a single one of them decides to return or is deported back to India carrying the infection. With most of the Indian airports still in preparation mode, which can be attributed from the fact that national and international carriers are still being giving directions and thermal guns are still to be procured. With more than 22,000 passengers having been screened, the impact of the now soon to be called pandemic cannot be negated. India also has just two labs which are capable to test suspected Ebola samples.

The capacity of these labs should also be a cause of worry as they can only screen 100 samples every day. Although the health ministry says that it is working on getting another 10 labs ready to scale up capacity, everyone knows how fast bureaucratic India works. With more than 50,000 protective gears already having been distributed, the challenge now is to ensure that basic health messages like hand washing that the Indian government has for long been talking about, how soon will they be taken up seriously?
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