NEW DELHI: India needs to brace for viral diseases like Ebola that have not entered the country so far but have raged in some other countries in recent years. Scientists from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) – the most important health research bodies in the country – have identified 10 emerging viral infections that could pose a threat to public health in India. These include Ebola, MERS-CoV, Yellow Fever and Avian Influenza (H7N9). Dr Balram Bhargava, director general of ICMR, said increasing international travel has raised the chances of these diseases reaching India, so it is important to prepare for emergencies. “Nearly 30,000 Indians live in Uganda, where Ebola has been reported. Some of our troops are also present in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the viral infection has led to an outbreak situation at present,” Dr Bhargava said. Ebola is a highly contagious disease that gets transmitted through bodily fluids and causes haemorrhagic fever with internal and external bleeding. Death occurs in 70% of the cases. MERS-CoV or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronaviruses, which was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has since spread to 26 countries, causes respiratory distress syndrome resulting in multi-organ failure. No case of MERS has been detected in India so far, according to a review of emerging and re-emerging viral diseases and new viruses published in the Indian Journal of Medical Researc (IJMR). “Bats are thought to be the natural reservoirs of this virus, and many patients developed the illness after contact with camels. India is home to a great diversity of bat species and has a substantial camel population. The country also reports heavy passenger traffic from the Middle East. These facts call for preparedness and surveillance against this virus,” the IJMR article says. It adds that sporadic cases of H7N9 and H9N2 – subtypes of avian influenza (AI) – have been reported. “Our country has infrastructure and expertise available to tackle any future challenge,” Dr Bhargava said.