In reply to the Bombay High Court’s queries, the Centre on Wednesday said all passengers alighting from aircrafts originating from the four Ebola-affected west African nations were subjected to a “hi-tech” thermal scanners installed at the entry points of airports.
“The Mumbai international airport has four health counters that are manned by doctors, who are well experienced to handle epidemics like SARS and H1N1,” Centre’s lawyer Rui Rodrigues told Justices A S Oka and G S Kulkarni. The HC was also told that all the counters had protective gears like masks and gloves. A total of 15,009 passengers from affected nations had been screened till now in the country, he said.
“The hi-tech scanners can detect the slightest change in body temperatures. Each counter at the Mumbai airport has one specialised doctor and two paramedical staffers. They work round-the-clock in three shifts,” said Rodrigues.
The Centre further submitted in the HC that passengers who approached immigration counters without undergoing health check-up were refused clearances and sent back to the health counters. They are bound to get a stamp and doctor’s signature.
It is the Central government’s contention that the suspected cases are accordingly categorised into lower, medium and high risk. “Three ambulances with a doctor and nurses are permanently stationed outside the airport for the purpose of quarantine if required,” Rodrigues told the court.
After taking into consideration Rodrigues’ submissions, HC asked him to put everything on affidavit, and posted the hearing on September 5 for directions, if required.
The HC on September 2 sought replies from the Centre and state governments on whether passengers travelling from Ebola-affected countries were being screened or their declaration was being relied upon by medical authorities.
The state had said Ebola helplines had been established in Mumbai and other places in the state. While giving registration numbers of ambulances in Mumbai and Pune, the state contended it had adequate stock of “personal protective equipment”.
BMC clueless about how Santacruz girl contracted Japanese Encephalitis
A recently diagnosed case of Japanese Encephalitis in a nine-year-old girl — the first in the city this year — has baffled civic officials, who have not found a single breeding site of culex vishnui, the mosquito known to spread the virus of the disease.
The girl, a Santacruz (east) resident, was admitted to Hinduja hospital, Mahim, around 25 days ago after she complained of problems in limb movement. Dr Neelu Desai, paediatric neurologist at the hospital, said, “At present, she has movement disorder. While she is awake and can look around, her brain is not fully following commands.”
Japanese encephalitis, a viral disease, is known to affect the brain and has a 30 per cent fatality with no known treatment. The girl is on ventilator under supportive treatment for seizure control and abnormal movement.
“We knew she had some type of viral encephalitis. After MRI and clinical tests, we narrowed down on Japanese encephalitis. We sent her samples to laboratories to diagnose presence of all the encephalitis viruses,” Desai added
The cerebrospinal fluid of the girl sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, confirmed the encephalitis virus. However, Dr Mangala Gomare, deputy executive health officer, said, “The reports confirm that it is encephalitis. But we have not had a case in the last two years. We are still not able to figure out how she contracted it as there is no travel history to the states affected with the disease.”
At present, Japanese encephalitis has been reported in Bihar, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. The National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme has reported 1,048 cases with 208 deaths till August end this year.
Dr Rajan Naringrekar, insecticide officer at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, said, “We searched her locality for 5-6 days, but found no breeding of the mosquito known to spread this virus. Even her school, which is also in Santacruz, was examined.”
Experts have, however, discussed the slight possibility of mosquitoes travelling through bags or suitcases and getting transferred to the city. Desai said, “Since she has not moved out of the city, it is possible that the mosquito known to carry this virus came through such means.”