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BMC on alert as flight with 100 passengers from Ebola-hit Liberia headed for Mumbai

MUMBAI: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) geared up to create additional provision for beds after receiving an alert from the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport of a flight transporting over 100 passengers from Liberia, one of the four countries in West Africa currently facing the ongoing epidemic infection of the Ebola virus.

According to acting executive health officer (EHO) at BMC, Dr Shreedhar Kubal, immediate action plan was drawn in anticipation of the expected passengers. “We are isolating 120 beds specially for these passengers. We have been told that 116 passengers are suspected of an Ebola exposure.”

BMC’s additional municipal commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh said, “While a facility for 120 passengers is being mobilised, we expect that around 20 would need to get quarantined. Not all of them are infected with the virus.”

Currently, the civic body has only 20 isolation beds for infectious diseases– 10 in Kasturba hospital at Chinchpokli and another 10 in Jogeshwari’s Trauma hospital– which will now be increased to a capacity of 120 beds.

A Meeting was called on emergency basis by the health department to discuss the required infrastructure and staff support.

A spokesperson from the international airport, while confirming the news of the expected passengers from Liberia, said, “The flight has still not come in our radar so it is not landing very soon. We are trying to confirm which airlines is carrying these passengers and the total number on board.”

The spokesperson added that the Airport Hospital Organisation (APHO) is prepared to screen the patients and transfer the suspected cases to BMC run hospitals in the Maharashtra’s emergency ambulance services.

Currently, all the suspected cases will be admitted in Hindu Hriday Samrat Jogeshwari trauma care hospital where the provision for beds had been made. Deshmukh added that only those patients requiring treatment will be shifted to Kasturba hospital where 160 beds can be utilised for this purpose.

However, the threat of physical touch among passengers and probable spread of infection is also possible. While the civic body is arranging entire isolation wards, chances of infection spreading from infected patient to a suspected patient admitted in the same ward cannot be ruled out.

Acting EHO Kubal admitted the loophole, however, he added, “Right not we are focussing on creating beds for suspected cases. Isolation chambers are not immediately possible.”

A civic official said, “The isolation facility is getting arranged in accordance to the guidelines framed by experts in the city. Noted doctors and senior HODs have given few suggestions which are being implemented.”

In terms of protection to the medical staff which will handle suspected or confirmed Ebola patients, the BMC already has as many as 600 body suits for staffers and doctors to wear.