India should continue screening for Ebola: WHO

India should continue screening for the Ebola virus disease at airports for at least another 3-6 months as an act of abundant precaution, the World Health Organisation has cautioned.

“Surveillance at the airports is going to be protracted. Only when two incubation periods of the virus (42 days) is over without a new case, we can say the outbreak is over, at least for now,” said Asheena Khalakdina, team leader (communicable diseases) at WHO India.

In four separate regional training sessions, to be held in September, the world's apex health body is going to train state-level officials from all across India on how to deal with Ebola cases in case an infected patient lands in India.

The WHO officials insist on continuing airport screening despite admitting that chances of the virus spreading by air travel are minimal.

Moreover, this time the death rate is relatively lower, as almost 47 per cent people infected by Ebola have survived. “The Indian government wants to be doubly cautious, as symptoms of Ebola are similar to those of other illnesses,” said Khalakdina.

The rate of transmission during an air travel, however, is low as the Ebola virus is not airborne. Also, there is exit-screening in the four affected nations—Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria, which is the least-affected country with 15 cases and four deaths.

But since Ebola symptoms, like sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, are non-specific, a large number of travellers coming from Nigeria—Africa’s most populous country—are being screened at airports, even if they have flu or other non-serious disease.

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