India has quarantined a man who was cured of Ebola in Liberia but continued to show traces of the virus in samples of his semen after arriving in the country, the Indian Health Ministry said on Tuesday.
The ministry said in a statement that the Indian national had been shown to be negative for Ebola in tests conforming to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, but had been quarantined as a precautionary measure when he arrived at New Delhi airport on November 10.
Later, tests of his semen detected traces of the virus. “It is a known fact that, during convalescence from Ebola Virus Disease, persons continue to shed virus in bodily fluids for variable periods,” the ministry said.
“However, presence of virus in his semen samples may have the possibility of transmitting the disease through the sexual route up to 90 days from time of clinical cure.” India has screened thousands of passengers travelling from Ebola-hit West Africa in recent weeks.
The Indian man carried with him documents from Liberia that stated he had been cured. He will be kept in quarantine until the virus is no longer present in his body, and will undergo tests over the next 10 days or so, a senior Health Ministry official said.
“It is not an Ebola case, he is an Ebola-treated patient who is negative in blood but whose body fluid is positive. He has no symptoms,” the official said, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Peter Piot, a former WHO official who was one of the discoverers of the virus, has in the past expressed concerns about the disease spreading to India. There are nearly 45,000 Indian nationals living in West Africa.
Many experts say densely populated India is not adequately prepared to handle any spread of the highly infectious haemorrhagic fever among its 1.2 billion people.
Government health services are overburdened and many people in rural areas struggle to get access to even basic health services.
Hygiene standards are low, especially in smaller towns and villages, and defecating and urinating in the open are common.
The current outbreak of Ebola is the worst on record.
It has killed at least 5,177 people, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, according to the latest figures from the WHO.
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