Vigil for yellow fever stepped up

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NEW DELHI: An Ethiopian marathon runner has been put on quarantine at the Yellow Fever Hospital (YFH), at Delhi airport, after he failed to produce the mandatory yellow fever vaccination certificate.

The athlete, whose name was not revealed by the Union health ministry, had come to India to participate in the second Delhi Half Marathon, the world's richest with a prize money of $150,000, to be held on October 15.

He will be in quarantine till October 17. During this time, doctors at the YFH will closely monitor his body temperature and test his urine and blood samples. Ethiopia is one of the worst affected countries with yellow fever. An epidemic there in 1960 had resulted in 15,000 deaths.

Yellow fever is difficult to identify in the early stages and because it has never been found in India, officials don't want to mistake it for malaria, typhoid or dengue, and allow a human carrier to walk into India.

India has heightened surveillance activities against yellow fever, following chikungunya's reappearance in India after 32 years. What's worrying is that yellow fever is spread by the same Aedes Aegypti mosquito that is responsible for dengue and chikungunya.

Worse, India has a large monkey population that acts as a perfect reservoir for the yellow fever virus once introduced. And Africa, only a few hours by flight from India, has an endemic case history of this virus.

The health ministry has told authorities in every airport and port to be extra vigilant, specially for passengers belonging to 44 yellow fever endemic countries, mainly in Africa and South America, or even those who have transited these countries in the last six days.

The ministry decided to increase the capacity of the YFH. At present, the hospital at Terminal 1A, can only quarantine 10 people in single rooms and 10 more in a common room.

A month ago, over 20 passengers were quarantined as they were not carrying yellow fever vaccination certificates.

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