A health official scans the body temperature of a passenger as she arrives at the at an airport. Representative image (AP)
A health official scans the body temperature of a passenger as she arrives at the at an airport. Representative image (AP)

India steps up coronavirus checks at airports as 3 people suspected of disease

  • Around 23,000 Indian students are studying in China a considerable number of them in Wuhan medical University
  • AIIMS in New Delhi said that it has kept ready an isolation ward and kept ready all the protective gear to handle any spread of the virus

New Delhi: India intensified measures to check passengers for the life —threatening coronavirus even as three people— who had recently traveled to China— were hospitalized in the country with symptoms resembling the disease.

The government’s concerns over the virus are increasing as Wuhan in China, the epicenter of the virus outbreak, houses large number of Indians particularly students at different Chinese universities. According to estimates, around 23,000 Indian students are studying in China a considerable number of them in Wuhan medical University.

The (nCoV) is a new virus strain that has not been previously identified in humans, which are believed to be transmitted from animals to people. The first case was identified in China’s Wuhan on 31st December.

While scientists are still trying to find out the cause of the virus, findings of a study published in the Journal of Medical Virology suggested that snake is the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for the 2019-nCoV.

“Ministry of External Affairs is disseminating travel advisory (in local languages) to Indian Embassies in China and adjoining countries for wider circulation and passenger information," the health Ministry said in a statement.

Passengers are now being screened at 12 more airports in the country besides seven were preventive measure were launched earlier this week.

Following an advisory by the World Health Organization (WHO), India on Friday screened 4082 passengers in 19 flights for Coronovirus symptoms. Until now, 20,844 passengers from 96 flights have been screened.

Two persons returning to Mumbai from China have been kept under observation at Kasturba hospital, Mumbai for possible exposure to the coronavirus.A person from Kochi was also admitted to Kalamassery medical college on Friday under the suspicion that he had contracted coronavirus as he recently travelled to China

While enquiries for travel bookings to various cities of China have dropped from India, there have been no spike in cancellation of airline bookings yet, two airline officials said, on condition of anonymity. “There is no panic yet. A lot of the flights to China are majorly a transit for other destinations from India," one of the officials said.

An emergency committee of the WHO after a second consecutive meeting confirmed that there have been increased numbers of reported cases in China, with 557 confirmed as of Thursday.

However, the committee has said that it is still too early to declare the coronavirus as Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) given its restrictive and binary nature.

“Human-to-human transmission is occurring. Of confirmed cases, 25% are reported to be severe. The source is still unknown (most likely an animal reservoir) and the extent of human-to-human transmission is still not clear," WHO said in a statement.

“It is expected that further international exportation of cases may appear in any country," it added.

At the WHO meeting, Chinese authorities presented new epidemiological information that revealed an increase in the number of cases, of suspected cases, of affected provinces, and the proportion of deaths in currently reported cases of 4% (17 of 557). Menwhile, disease cases have been reported in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand and one suspected case in Singapore.

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi said that it has kept ready an isolation ward and kept ready all the protective gear to handle any spread of the virus.

"No country can be prepared at this point because it is a new virus, that’s why it is called novel corona virus. This disease needs to be fought as a nation, more so on individual level by taking necessary precautions. The Government has become active and travelers from China are being screened at airports for initial symptoms. But people coming from China also need to take precautions and present themselves to the health authorities if they are experiencing symptoms," said Manoj Goel, Director and Head, Pulmonology, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram.

“Currently the virus is not that virulent. As of now, as per WHO, it’s a weak virus. So we must ensure panic is not created around it. Otherwise hospitals would find it difficult to manage patients. Only patients coming from China and displaying very visible symptoms need to go for a check-up if they have symptoms within 2 weeks. So mainly, at this point, people should adopt precautionary methods. And can easily be managed in isolation facilities, he said.

“ICMR-NIV Pune has informed that 4 samples (2 from Mumbai, 1each from Bengaluru and Hyderabad) have tested Negative for nCoV. One of Mumbai patients has tested positive for Rhinovirus, one of the routine common cold virus, “ union health ministry said on Friday.

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