NEW DELHI: With the World Health Organisation designating swine influenza outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern, India on Monday put on alert all international airports and ports for identifying persons with suspected infection who could be arriving from countries affected.
Those travelling to affected areas have also been advised to defer non-essential journeys. Instructions were issued to track down people who arrived in India from Mexico, the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Spain, France and the United Kingdom.
“Keeping in view the global scenario, the government is instituting a series of preventive action that includes surveillance at ports and international airports. Surveillance [will be] through the integrated disease surveillance units in the States,” V. M. Katoch, Director-General, Indian Council of Medical Research, told reporters after a meeting of the joint monitoring group here. All passengers coming to India from the affected areas will be mandatorily screened for influenza symptoms while for others it will be voluntary.
All States were advised to review their preparedness to investigate and contain any suspected cluster of influenza-like illness. The Central government would be supporting the States in terms of guidelines, experts, material logistics and laboratory support.
“Since the disease has originated outside India, we have no reason to believe that pigs in India are carrying the disease, hence we are monitoring the movement of the people coming here from the affected countries,” Vineet Chowdhry, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said.
The process of tracking down the passengers who arrived in India from these countries had already started, he said.
It was not difficult since computerised records of travellers were available with the airlines.
Within the next two days, nine international airports — Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kochi and Goa — will have additional medical and paramedical staff. The staff were identified and deployment would start shortly, Mr. Chowdhry said. Delhi international airport alone will have 38 doctors for screening passengers.
The Ministry is drafting guidelines for the airlines to follow, including informing the passengers that they could be screened on arrival in India.
“We have drafted a proforma which will be given to the passengers for voluntary declaration of any flu symptoms like fever, and cough. If he or she develops any symptoms subsequently, it can be reported to the authorities or on telephone no. 23921401 which is a toll-free number at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases,” Dr. Katoch said.
A round-the-clock call centre under the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (No. 1075) will also be attending calls from the public regarding reporting of influenza-like illness. Any person suspected to have influenza will be isolated at the airport and put on treatment.
Dr. Katoch said a stockpile of one million doses of Tamiflu was available and a request had been made for another one million doses.