Seventeen Indians — part of a delegation of Afcons employees — who arrived in the capital from Liberia on Tuesday were declared free of the Ebola virus after being screened at the Delhi airport, except one, who had fever and sore throat. He has been isolated in a quarantine-cum-isolation facility at the Delhi airport.
The delegation comprises 112 Indians and four Nepal nationals, many of who flew to different states.
According to the Health Ministry, Afcons in Liberia had requested International SOS (ISOS) Organisation to help their Indian employees return home. These include four from Delhi, Maharashtra (54), West Bengal (12), Bihar (10), Uttar Pradesh (7), Tamil Nadu (5), Andhra Pradesh (4), Kerala (3), Odisha (3), Gujarat (3), Karnataka (2), Haryana (2), Punjab (2), Jharkhand (1), Madhya Pradesh (1), Uttarakhand (1), Rajasthan (1) and Himachal Pradesh (1). Health Ministry officials said medical director of ISOS had already intimated Indian authorities that Afcons employees had been screened while leaving Liberia and none had symptoms prior to travel.
Senior officers of the ministry have been positioned at Mumbai and Delhi airports to monitor the screening of these passengers from Liberia. Till 9.30 pm, 71 passengers landed in Mumbai and 17 in Delhi.
“No case of Ebola virus disease has been detected in India. It is reiterated that it is not an airborne infection (not spread through the air you breathe). A person has to come in very close contact with the blood and body fluids of an Ebola patient to acquire this infection,” the release stated.
Five passengers on routine flights from affected countries showed symptoms of fever. They have also been quarantined at the Delhi airport. Their samples are being tested at National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
“The virus has a 21-day incubation period. Symptoms can show any time within 21 days after contracting the virus. We will be following up on all patients till they complete 21 days in India,” a senior Health official said.
According to the ministry, state governments have been instructed to ensure “rigorous tracking and monitoring of these passengers”.
Sources confirmed that the states the passengers are travelling to have been alerted for follow up of these passengers on daily basis.
According to sources at the Delhi airport, passengers are first asked to fill up a form mentioning if they show any symptoms related to Ebola, including a history of fever or “non specific” viral symptoms.
They are then made to pass through a thermal scanner. Anybody showing signs of fever is isolated and taken to the Airport Health Organisation’s isolation centre or RML hospital for tests.
Health officials and suspected patients are made to wear protective gear till they have been cleared.
These passengers are also asked to account for any contact they have had with an Ebola patient. Patients who report such history, along with symptoms, are taken to the quarantine-cum-isolation health facility — a dedicated floor in the airport hospital or to a six-bed isolation ICU created at RML hospital — where their blood samples are drawn for antigen tests.
Testing facilities have been set up at NCDC in Delhi and National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune.