With the ongoing spread of Ebola in West Africa, it is becoming increasingly likely that the disease will make its way to India. So what should India do to prepare? The Union government has already taken several meaningful steps. It has designated hospitals in major cities as Ebola management centres and formed rapid response teams in every state, each of which will include physicians, nurses and epidemiologists. The state teams are being trained by the WHO and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and will disseminate their training to local first responders. Also, the government has put in place screening protocols at international airports, established 24-hour Ebola helplines staffed by doctors and shortlisted the authorisation of 10 new Ebola-testing labs.
These are all important steps, but they may not be enough. Indeed, if the disease were to arrive and begin to spread, India would need a strategy that is bigger, more aggressive and comprehensive than what it has now. We propose three main areas where policymakers should concentrate additional effort: a stronger focus on diagnostics and therapeutics, greater partnership with the private sector, and a more aggressive approach to public communication. Even if Ebola were not to arrive in India, this would serve as a way to prepare for future similar medical threats.