In the light of Saudi Arabia and a few other countries reporting cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), the Health Department here is keeping track of cases of fever on a daily basis. However, officials said they had not received any formal communication regarding the institution of screening procedures.
“So far, there has been no formal alert or advisory on checks at ports and airports. WHO has stated that there is no condition of public health emergency,” official sources said. Alerts, an official said, came from three sources – Centre for Disease Control, Atlanta, WHO and National Centre for Disease Control, New Delhi.
“We are however collecting information on cases of fever every day. From H1N1 and SARS to avian influenza and dengue, we are covering all kinds of cases in our surveillance mechanism. We are collecting daily reports from all major government and private hospitals,” he said.
Specialists — professors of medicine and paediatrics — have been asked to alert public health authorities of any unusual cases, he said.
On an average, 25,000 persons travel to and from Saudi Arabia every month in the city. S. Baskar, chairman of Travel Agents Federation of India, said that most of them go there for employment. Over 4,000 pilgrims will leave for Mecca in September from the State. Officials of Airports Authority of India (AAI) said that there has been no screening of passengers in the airport as yet. “A few years ago, during the SARS virus scare, all passengers were subject to an automatic screening system. If a passenger whose body temperature was high passed through the device, the system would beep. He would then be taken to the doctor for examination. But in this case, we have not begun screening the passengers,” said an AAI official.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), on its website, has said that globally, it has been informed of a total of 90 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection, including 45 deaths since September 2012. It has encouraged all member States to continue their monitoring of severe acute respiratory infections and review unusual patterns.
However, WHO has not advised any special screening at points of entry or recommended application of travel or trade restrictions. The emergency WHO committee has stated that the conditions for a public health emergency of international concern have not been met.