As many as 112 Indian nationals suspected to have been exposed to the Ebola virus are expected to land in Mumbai from Liberia on seven different flights Tuesday. Civic authorities, meanwhile, are busy creating an isolation facility in a suburban hospital.
According to a spokesperson for the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA), the seven flights are carrying Indians evacuated from Liberia by the Indian embassy. Liberia is one of the four countries in West Africa affected by the Ebola virus.
While three flights will be diverted via Delhi, the remaining four will reach Mumbai directly at different times on Tuesday. All the flights are originating from Johannesburg.
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The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is preparing 120 beds after it received an alert from the CSIA. According to acting executive health officer (EHO) at BMC, Dr Shreedhar Kubal, an action plan has been drawn up. “We are isolating 120 beds. We have been told that more than 100 passengers are suspected to have been exposed to Ebola,” Kubal said.
BMC’s additional municipal commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh said, “While a facility for 120 passengers is being mobilised, we expect that around 20 would need to be quarantined.”
An emergency meeting was called by the civic health department Monday. Currently, the civic body has only 20 isolation beds for infectious diseases — 10 in Kasturba hospital at Chinchpokli and 10 in Jogeshwari trauma care hospital.
Preparations are also being made at the airport in Mumbai. South African flight 284 with 20 passengers is expected to be the first to arrive at 12.50 am Tuesday. More passengers are scheduled to be flown in by Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Emirates and South African Airways.
The medical team at CSIA has planned a five-step process for the safety of passengers, including parking the aircraft at an isolated bay. “The passengers will be screened at the step ladder itself. Those without symptoms will be cleared,” said an airport spokesperson.
All suspected cases will be admitted to Hindu Hriday Samrat Jogeshwari trauma care hospital, where the provision for 120 beds has been made. Deshmukh said that only those patients who require treatment will be shifted to Kasturba hospital, where 160 beds can be utilised for this purpose.
According to a senior doctor in the BMC, only end-stage cases of Ebola virus are infectious. “The asymptomatic cases are not infectious and can be quarantined with other suspected cases in the same ward. Only when we are sure that they are infected, will we isolate them in totality,” the doctor said. Kubal said, “Right now, we are focusing on creating beds for suspected cases. Isolation chambers are not immediately possible.”
The BMC has about 600 body suits for staffers and doctors to wear.
Dr Om Srivastava, director of infectious diseases department at Jaslok hospital, said, “It is going to be a challenge seeing the logistics involved. The key will be to identify the infected patients quickly and use the resources available with BMC to treat them.”
The Health Ministry confirmed that arrangements have been made at airports in Delhi and Mumbai to screen the passengers.