Two Indians quarantined in Mumbai over coronavirus fears

Tabassum Barnagarwala
Two Indians quarantined in Mumbai over coronavirus fears

International airports in India have activated thermal screening for passengers arriving from China. (Twitter/@@MoHFW_INDIA)

Two Indians who travelled to Mumbai from China have been kept in an isolation ward at Kasturba Hospital, and their blood samples have been collected to check for the new strain of coronavirus.

At least 1,739 passengers flying in from China have been screened at Mumbai airport. At least six of these passengers (three from Mumbai and three from Pune) were arriving from coronavirus-affected regions in China. Of them, two, a resident of Nallasopara and another from Kalyan, showed mild cough and cold symptoms.

The female traveller landed in the city on January 22 after stayed in China for a week in Foshan city. The other passenger, a male Kalyan resident, also landed on the same day after visiting Guangzhou. Both were shifted to Kasturba hospital as a precautionary measure and quarantined.

Their blood samples were collected and sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test. State health officials will keep them under observation for 28 days.

"They are stable, only cough persist. Once the cough subsides we will discharge them and continue to monitor their heath. We can't keep them for 28 days in hospital,” said Dr Padmaja Keskar, executive health officer, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

“Neither China nor the World Health Organization (WHO) has transmission period for this virus. Usually, it takes only few days for symptoms to surface in respiratory infection. We are observing the case for double the period, in this case, 28 days. It will provide a sufficient window to detect any symptoms,” said state epidemiologist Dr Pradeep Awate.

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The new strain of Coronavirus

Called the Novel Coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, this is a new strain of coronavirus that reported an outbreak from Huanan sea food market in Wuhan city in December 2019. The WHO office in China was informed about pneumonia cases due to unknown causes on December 31, 2019.

On January 1, the sea food market was closed after officials believed it to be the epicentre.

The original strains of coronavirus are known to attack respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. “About 30-40 per cent cough and cold cases have coronavirus. This virus is largely known to cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). But not much is known about the new strain,” said Dr Om Srivastava, infectious disease specialist.

Srivastava added that confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission of the virus have been reported in China, but not in other countries. “We still need to know the genomic structure, its reservoir, from where it has originated. It has not been transmitted from marine life even though the outbreak was reported in a seafood market,” Srivastava said.

Much like the original strains of CoV, the novel strain is attacking the respiratory tract and causing pneumonia. But its progression and how it affects other organs is still not known. The SARS and MERS first affect lungs. In advanced cases, they attack other organs. From 2012 till November 2019, 2,494 MERS-CoV cases were reported globally.

There are 25 cases of coronavirus reported by the National Health Commission of China.

Coronavirus in India

Starting January 17, three international airports in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata installed thermal scanners to screen passengers from China for cough, cold, pneumonia and fever. On January 20, the advisory was extended to Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin airports. In-flight announcements are made on flights from China for passengers to report any illness.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare informed that apart from NIV in Pune, ten other laboratories are equipped to test samples for novel CoV.

In 2014, rapid response teams were trained in each state to handle the MERS-CoV outbreak. In November 2019, another training was held for Ebola virus. These teams have been activated.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Steps taken in Maharashtra

With the two suspected cases quarantined, Dr Archana Patil, from Directorate of Health Services, Maharashtra, has issued a series of alerts for health officials. Any person with a history of travel from China who has pneumonia, fever above 38 degrees Celsius, cough, cold, and respiratory illness has to be admitted and observed.

Infection control protocol in hospitals to contain the suspected infection has also been released. In Mumbai, Kasturba hospital acts as a quarantine facility.

The international airport has activated a thermal screener at pre-immigration area for passengers arriving from China. Currently, the airport operates two flights from China — Air China and RwandAir.

The airport has seven ambulances, of which four are equipped with advanced life support for emergency cases. A ten bedded mini hospital is also located at the airport premises to isolate suspected cases. About 170-180 passengers from China are screened at the airport daily, and a report is sent to the state health ministry.

Coronavirus in other countries

The nCoV strain has been reported in Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, the US, and Thailand, so far. Read more on what other countries are doing