In view of the Centre’s directions to step up surveillance for cases of novel Coronavirus (nCoV) entering the country, National Institute of Virology in Pune has ramped up its laboratory diagnostic capacity according to World Health Organization (WHO) protocols, a senior official said on Friday.
The nCoV outbreak was reported in Wuhan city of China in December last year. So far, 41 cases, including three deaths, have been confirmed in Wuhan, with three confirmed cases detected in among those travelling to Thailand (two cases) and Japan (one case).
According to recent reports, nearly 200 people have been infected so far in Thailand, Japan and South Korea.
“While airport screenings have been activated, the laboratory diagnostic capacity has been strengthened as per the WHO protocol,” Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research told The Indian Express on Friday.
Ten other laboratories under ICMR’s Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratories network are also equipped to test such samples, if the need arises, Dr Bhargava added.
States have been told by the Ministry of health and family welfare to step up surveillance. As per the WHO’s risk assessment, the risk of global spread, as of now, remains low. However, the Centre has directed state surveillance officers to keep a close watch on cases of severe acute respiratory infection (SARI).
Screenings at the community level as well as at the health facility level have been recommended to identify and respond to clustering of cases for early detection of impending SARI outbreaks. Maharashtra surveillance officer Dr Pradeep Awate said they have received instructions from the Centre and while surveillance measures are being put in place, there will be a constant vigil on SARI cases which report a history of travel from other countries. “The entry check points — airports at Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi already have their screening measures in place,” Dr Awate said.
“The affected patients have been reported to have symptoms and radiological signs suggestive of bilateral Pneumonia and few of them have developed SARI. WHO has further conveyed that there is no clear evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission and there is no reporting of case among healthcare workers or known contacts of the patients. However many crucial epidemiological parameters of this disease like source of infection, incubation period, modes of transmission, sub-clinical infections etc. are still under investigation,” a circular has said.
Meanwhile, four days after thermal screening for nCoV cases began at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA), airport officials said no suspected cases have been found so far.
Mumbai airport began thermal screening since January 17 following the advisory to Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata from the Centre.
“In Mumbai, passengers with symptoms will be quarantined at the airport hospital itself,” said Dr Anup Kumar Yadav, director of National Health Mission, Maharashtra. He added that so far no other hospital has been allocated for quarantining suspected passengers.
Currently, Air China and Rwand Air flights operate out of Mumbai airport.
With inputs from ENS, Mumbai
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