Ebola - Dodging the Bullet

By Dr Oscar Rebelo
16 October 2014 13:41 IST

The Ebola epidemic, raging like a wild fire, across Western Africa is clearly the most terrifying medical emergency, our planet has seen for a long, long time.

It could well claim hundreds of thousands of lives, like the flu pandemic, a century ago or it could well die down quickly, as most lethal viruses that kill so many of their hosts press the auto destruct button on themselves too. Either way, we do not know the outcome of this modern day scourge.

With no antiviral drug or vaccine in the  pipeline, all we can do is hunker down and brace ourselves for an attack,  anytime. As a tourist destination, Goa, remains a vulnerable target, albeit a remote one, as we don’t get tourists from Africa as often, but one never knows, who could slip in, from where carrying the virus. At least with cyclone Hudhud, you had a warning. In this case, it’ll come your way, unannounced Bang Bang in your face. (and in your blood stream)

Here are a few of my suggestions, to put systems in place, to hopefully counter Ebola and a drill that we could start practicing, in case of any future disease outbreaks.

1. The Preventive and Social Health Department of GMC and  its motivated staff, with the help of Public Health Department doctors should be a nodal centre for strategy, actions and information. Instead of multiple agencies, speaking in forked tongues and spreading rumors and panic, one  reliable node to disseminate a concerted action plan via all forms of media, must start right now.

2. All of us medicos and para-medical personnel in the Government and Private  sector must be given compulsory, basic training and tools to identify and guide a potential Ebola patient. This must be started now, not after the first Ebola victim slips in.

Once that happens, no one thinks with a clear head. Panic will be the order of the day.

1. A detailed travel history, if possible, of any fever patient must be procured as a mandatory exercise by any treating physician, across Goa and anyone suspected to have come in from West Africa (Many Goans work in Nigeria/Ghana by the way) must be reported to the nodal centre and quarantined if necessary.

2. If, God forbid, we do get a suspected patient, all of us in the field must know where to admit this patient- a single designated unit completely geared up to handle such cases.

Under no circumstances, should such a potential patient, move into overcrowded OPDs at Govt. or Private  hospitals thereby putting at risk many more individuals.

Needless to say, this designated unit must be provided with all the necessary resources- no questions and red tape please- to contain the threat.

Protective bio hazard gear, hermetically sealed rooms and motivated medical personnel. Go above and beyond the call of public finance to treat, the first patient because all subsequent patients are going to be infinitely more expensive and deadly.

1. Try as I might, I could still get no information whatsoever on how to detect Ebola in our country (Apparently, two Govt. labs in Delhi and Pune are earmarked for this) and most importantly how does one procure full body protective gear and at what cost.

Some intrepid Indian Entrepreneur must “ Make this in India” please. “At low cost”

Mr. Laxmikant Parsekar, our Health Minister, Dr. Pradeep Naik, our current calm and pragmatic Dean at GMC, Dr. Sunanda Amonkar, my very capable friend as medical Superintendent  and Dr. S Dalvi, Director D.H.S will be truly thanked if they push the powers that be, to combat this potential threat to our health and economy. Now!!! Right now!!! They are extremely capable of  setting up these systems elucidated and get us to be prepared and vigilant for the worst.

We need to act rapidly and sensibly before this deadly terrorist get in. Once he does, we would run helter skelter like headless chickens but Ebola is faster and deadlier than all the Twitter messages we’ll be sending one another with the #”Help, we’re gonna die”.

As the old adage goes “An ounce of prevention is worth more than a ton of cure” and frankly in this case, there is no sight of a cure, anywhere on the horizon.

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Dr Oscar Rebelo

Dr Oscar Rebelo is one of the leading social activist of Goa and a practicing doctor. He led the historic peoples’ movement in 2006-07 to get the anti-Goa Regional Plan scrapped and save Goa from total destruction of Goa’s ecology and natural beauty. He is a Goa-based leader of Aam Aadmi Party. He is also a columnist.

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Previous Comments

People can be really cruel about this and yesterday we encountered this hoax news.


- Shruti, USA | 22 nd October 2014 21:07


There are drugs and vaccines in the pipeline they are not out yet in the market. Experimental drugs are being given to the patients in the US.

You are right on the money, the Govt./authorities should put an emergency plan in place and have the necessary protocols ready to handle any ebola cases that might emerge in Goa.

Immigration at the airports should keep an eye on people coming from Western Africa, monitor their body temperatures, inquire on the travel history and keep their contacts to track them.

Use of proper protective gear for the medical staff is a key. In the US two nurses got infected treating a Ebola patient because they were not wearing proper protection.

Dr Oscar, please your personal contacts with Parrikar et al. to explain the gravity of the situation in case Ebola does come to Goa.

- Prashant, USA | 18 th October 2014 16:44


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