The government has taken initiatives to screen passengers coming from the West African countries for Ebola infection at airports, but not passengers from other parts of the world, including pilgrims from Saudi Arabia, although the world is reeling from the fear of a looming Ebola and MERS-CoV pandemics.
Only the passengers who came from the African countries have been screened in the country's airports and a total of 126 passengers from West African countries during the month of August have been screened and follow up of 97 passengers for 21 days among them has been completed following the initiatives taken by the government.
The pilgrims who are coming from Saudi Arabia after performing Hajj are also at risk of Ebola attack, as pilgrims from other countries including Europe and America gathered there. Ebola affected West African countries have not been permitted to join the Hajj this year.
But the US government and European countries have taken cautionary measures especially screening of incoming passengers as Ebola was recently detected in both the continents.
The Bangladeshi pilgrims are provided with a yellow card bearing four phone numbers by their carrier airlines and are advised to contact within fourteen days if they feel respiratory problems normally associated with MERS-CoV attack prevalent in the Middle East.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It is caused by a coronavirus called MERS-CoV. Most people who have been confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection developed severe acute respiratory illness. They had fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About 30 per cent of people confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection have died.
World Health Organization (WHO) says so far 8,399 people in seven countries including Nigeria, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leon have been infected with the deadly Ebola virus and a total of 4,033 people have died.
In Bangladesh a total of 25 medical teams are working at 20 land ports, three international airports and two sea ports across the country and about 3,283 health service providers including doctors, nurses, and immigration personnel have been trained, said Prof Mahmudur Rahman, Director of Institute of Epidemiology, Diseases Control and Research (IEDCR).
"We have imparted training to some 3,243 health service providers to face the catastrophe of the Ebola infection with the support of Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, US , WHO and UNICEF," Dr Rahman told The Daily Observer.
But the Director considers Bangladesh "a low-risk" country. "It's a remote possibility (of the virus coming to Bangladesh) as all passengers have been checked before departure at airport in foreign countries," he said.
As a third world country, it is very costly to screen all passengers but only yellow card is not sufficient to request pilgrims to contact if they feel any problem within 14 days, the government should monitor them by mapping as they are definitely at risk, said Dr Rashid-e-Mahbub, Chairman of the National Committee on Health Rights Movement.
If any case of Ebola virus is detected, then the patient would be sent to Kurmitola General Hospital. A total of 20 separate beds also have been arranged for treatment of the Ebola virus affected patients, Dr Rahman said.
Ebola viral haemorrhagic fever is a general term for a severe illness, sometimes associated with bleeding, that may be caused by a number of viruses. The virus was first identified in 1976 in Sudan and Congo.
Dr Mushtaq Hossain, Principal Scientific Officer at the IEDCR, said the virus develops in the human body within 2 to 21 days and the virus carrying patients would suffer from severe fever, bleeding etc. If someone suffers from fever within three days of the virus attack, inevitably he would die. But if the fever comes two to three weeks later, there is a chance for survival, he said.
Health Minister Mohammad Nasim urged the people not to worry as the government has taken maximum cautionary measures to face the Ebola crisis in August.
A technical committee has been formed at the Directorate General of Health Services comprising representatives of the Health Ministry, Home Ministry, Armed Forces, Disease Control and Research, Civil Aviation Authority, Armed Forces, the immigration services and the national disease monitoring arm, Institute of Epidemiology, Diseases Control and Research (IEDCR).