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Novel coronavirus: Central team visits Gujarat, 246 under watch

AHMEDABAD: As many as 246 people, who have returned to Gujarat recently from coronavirus-hit China, are under observation at their homes, but no positive case of the infection has been found in the state so far, a senior health department official said on Wednesday.

They are among 900-odd people who have returned to Gujarat from China after the outbreak of the new strain of the coronavirus which has taken nearly 500 lives till now in the neighbouring country.

A central team comprising three doctors visited Gujarat and took stock of the health administration’s preparedness to identify as well as treat any infected patient, said Principal Secretary (Health) Jayanti Ravi.

Out of the eight persons who had shown symptoms similar to the coronavirus, medical reports of five of them came negative, while results of the three are awaited, she said.

“Till now, 930 people have returned to Gujarat from China (since the coronavirus outbreak in December).

We have kept 246 of them under 14-day quarantine observation at their homes and our doctors are visiting them regularly.

“We had sent samples of eight persons to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, to confirm if they were infected with this virus,” she said.

“However, samples of five suspected cases came negative, while results of three are yet to come. There are no positive cases of coronavirus in Gujarat yet. There is no need to panic.

“As a precautionary measure, the health department has advised sarpanches (village heads) and female health workers to spread awareness about the disease and advice people to maintain good personal hygiene,” the senior bureaucrat said.

Ravi said the three-member central team, that included Dr Manisha Jain of a Delhi hospital, expressed satisfaction over the administration’s preparedness after visiting the Ahmedabad airport, BJ Medical College and civil hospital, where screening and quarantine arrangements have been made.

The state health department has put in place a round-the-clock screening facility, with thermal scanners, at the Ahmedabad airport to detect possible cases of coronavirus.

It has also set up an isolation ward in the civil hospital here to treat patients suspected of contracting the infection.

Dr Jain, a microbiologist with Safdarjung Hospital, told reporters that a facility to test samples of suspected coronavirus patients will be set up at BJ Medical College, attached with the city’s civil hospital.

The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from the common cold to acute respiratory syndromes, but the virus that has killed people in China is a novel strain and not seen before.

Common symptoms of the novel coronavirus strain include respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the WHO.