IS INDIA PREPARED FOR EBOLA?

Even in an advanced state like Kerala, the hospital became a node for further infection. In other parts of the country, where medical infrastructure is poor, it becomes nearly impossible to prevent outbreaks from becoming epidemics.

IS INDIA PREPARED FOR EBOLA?


The World Health Organization has recently declared the deadly Ebola virus outbreak in Congo as an international health emergency. More than 1,700 people have died in last 11 months and has become the second-worst outbreak of the disease in history.

The declaration was sparked by confirmation of a case in Goma, a Congo city of more than two million people on the border with Rwanda.

The WHO defines a global health emergency as an "extraordinary event" which constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.

Previously, emergencies have been declared for the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people, the emergence of Zika in the Americas, the swine flu pandemic, and polio eradication.

Over the last decade, the Indian government has strengthened the surveillance and response system for detecting disease outbreaks early. India has also been rather lucky with the location of the outbreaks The Nipah virus, for example, surfaced at a strong point in India's network: Kerala, a state where there is a very good clinical system, a well-prepared state government, and a well-equipped laboratory in a nearby state.

Even in an advanced state like Kerala, the hospital became a node for further infection. In other parts of the country, where medical infrastructure is poor, it becomes nearly impossible to prevent outbreaks from becoming epidemics.

India may have improved its disease surveillance network, but reducing and limiting disease outbreaks requires several other measures, many lying outside the scope of the health care system. Can India stop the destruction of forests and restore the natural habitats of wild animals? Can the health care system practice the concept of One Health, where human and animal health are tackled together? Can the country bring the large number of private practitioners into disease surveillance?

In the wake of these challenges, the minimal increase of 15.4% in the investment on health care in the budget is inadequate. It also lacks a holistic vision.

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