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Miot Hospital Answers Ebola Scare
The recent Ebola outbreak in Africa has created near panic everywhere in the world and India is no exception. Dr. Prithvi Mohandas, Joint Managing Director, Miot Hospitals, in a general discussion, clarified some facts and was very reassuring.
By: MIOT Hospitals
The flip side is that there is also a complacency – “We are safe in India.” Or, “It can’t happen to me.” There are comments dismissing the threat of EVD in India as mere scaremongering. The truth is somewhere in between. In India we do need to be vigilant and have a system in place that can handle an outbreak, should it occur.
Dr. Prithvi Mohandas, Joint Managing Director, MIOT Hospitals, says the Ebola virus is indeed very deadly but there is no cause for panic. He believes what we need to do is increase awareness about EVD and take basic precautions about health and hygiene.
So, is India equipped to handle an EVD outbreak, should there be one?
Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, has made a statement about India’s preparedness to handle the situation. The National Centre for Disease Control is on the alert. Helplines - 23063205, 23061469 and 23061302 –are in place at the Health Ministry. Major airports are screening passengers for symptoms of EVD. An International Disease Surveillance Programme has been initiated and isolation wards have been set up in all major ports of entry.
Elaborating on the need for vigilance, Dr. Prithvi explained that prevention being better than cure, strict hygiene has to be maintained. Frequent washing of the hands with soap and water is a must. He says we need to remember certain facts. EVD is not an airborne disease. Ebola spreads only through contact with bodily fluids such as saliva, blood, semen, etc. The symptoms are typically the same as for any viral fever characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function and, in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.
WHO reports state that the incubation period - the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms – is said to be 2 to 21 days and people are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus.
At MIOT Hospitals, two entire floors are dedicated for treatment that requires isolation. However, Ebola patients would probably need to be cared for at the Communicable Diseases Hospital, Tondiarpet, Chennai, in keeping with the guidelines issued by the Tamil Nadu government. Testing too is restricted and only authorized in two places in India - the National Institute of Virology in Pune, and AIIMS in New Delhi. No other hospital is authorized to carry out laboratory tests for Ebola.
Dr. Prithvi holds that MIOT is always on the alert for any manner of infection, but suggests that we need also to bear in mind that there are several other diseases that take more lives per year that does Ebola. The seven deadliest of these are cholera, HIV / AIDS, tuberculosis, influenza (swine flu, bird flu), malaria, plague and small pox. Modern medicine and hygiene have given us some control over these devastating diseases. Small pox has even been eradicated, but these killers are still with us, claiming most of their victims from amongst the poorest and most vulnerable. What is causing the most concern is that these viruses are constantly mutating and jumping between species and coming back in more virulent forms. For example, HIV/AIDS makes the patient vulnerable to TB and combine forces to worsen each other.
There is currently no licensed drug available to treat EVD but some are in the testing / experimental stage. Medical science is constantly battling against viruses. The WHO has termed Ebola as ‘a virus that shows no mercy’. Thankfully, till date, we in India have been safe. The precautions suggested are not earth-shattering;
In the end, we’d rather be safe than sorry. Right?