New Delhi, November 19: Ebola virus has arrived in India in the form of a ‘seed’. Its traces were found in the semen of a man who has come from dreaded diseases inflicted country Liberia after being cured of the disease there. Though there is no cause for immediate panic, the event has shown that India may not be out of bound for India.
Health officials have quarantined the Indian citizen who was found with traces of virus even after being cured of the disease in Liberia. His semen sample showed this. Union Health Minister has said there is no cause for panic. The man had arrived in Delhi on October 10.
The ministry has said in a statement that the Indian national had been shown to be negative for Ebola in tests conforming to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, but had been quarantined as a precautionary measure when he arrived at New Delhi airport on November 10. Later, tests of his semen detected traces of the virus.
“It is a known fact that, during convalescence from Ebola Virus Disease, persons continue to shed virus in bodily fluids for variable periods,” the ministry said. “However, presence of virus in his semen samples may have the possibility of transmitting the disease through sexual route up to 90 days from time of clinical cure.”
India has screened thousands of passengers travelling from Ebola-hit West Africa in recent weeks.
The Indian man carried with him documents from Liberia that stated he had been cured. He will be kept in quarantine until the virus is no longer present in his body, and will undergo tests over the next 10 days or so, a senior health ministry official said.
“It is not an Ebola case, he is an Ebola-treated patient who is negative in blood but whose body fluid is positive. He has no symptoms,” the official said, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Peter Piot, a former WHO official who was one of the discoverers of the virus, has in the past expressed concerns about the disease spreading to India. There are nearly 45,000 Indian nationals living in West Africa.
Many experts say densely populated India is not adequately prepared to handle any spread of the highly infectious hemorrhagic fever among its 1.2 billion people. Government health services are overburdened and many people in rural areas struggle to get access to even basic health services.
Hygiene standards are low, especially in smaller towns and villages, and defecating and urinating in the open are common.
The current outbreak of Ebola is the worst on record. It has killed at least 5,177 people, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, according to the latest figures from the WHO.