All 112 Indian nationals evacuated by the Indian embassy from Liberia, one of the four West African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak, tested negative for the virus after screened for symptoms of the disease with a thermal scanner by the Airport Hospital Organisation (APHO) at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) on Tuesday.
Another 19 Indians, who landed in the city from Nigeria at 5.41 am, were also screened and cleared by the APHO. These passengers landed in Mumbai in seven aircrafts, all originating from Johannesburg, South Africa. Three of the seven flights were diverted via Delhi, where six passengers, who were isolated as suspected cases, also tested negative for the infectious disease.
According to the CSIA spokesperson, the passengers were immediately screened at the aircraft’s exit step ladder in a remote bay arranged for the seven planes. The spokesperson added that the aircrafts was disinfected after the passengers disembarked and an ambulance was kept ready with a doctor and a paramedic as a precautionary measure.
By late evening, the BMC heaved a sigh of relief after all the passengers of the last aircraft from Johannesburg that landed at 8.30 pm also tested negative. The entire tenth floor in civic-run Hindu Hriday Samrat Balasaheb Thackeray Hospital in Jogeshwari was dedicated for the purpose of an isolation facility. “We made provisions of 120 beds in case there was a huge number of suspected cases,” additional municipal commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh told the Newsline.
The entire hospital staff worked on double shifts. By Monday night, the hospital stepped up security and cordoned off floors where the isolation wards were situated. Public entry was prohibited and only one relative per patient was allowed to enter the other departments. According to hospital authorities, the paediatric ward was converted into an isolation facility for suspected cases and the paying rooms with an attached bathroom were provisioned for confirmed cases of Ebola infection.
“All the medical officers monitored the admission process of suspected patients. But fortunately we did not get even one Ebola suspected case,” said Dr M Wadiwala, head of BMC peripheral hospitals.
While the civic body is prepared to handle suspected Ebola cases, experts said the treatment regime might pose a serious problem. Dr Om Srivastava, head of infectious diseases at Jaslok hospital, said, “ZMapp – a drug manufactured by an American company – is being used by the WHO to treat the disease. It is not available in India. Treatment here can only be supportive.”
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