New Delhi: Around 12 lakh people have been evacuated from Ukraine in the last 10 days due to the ongoing war situation. "Considering high Covid-19 infection rates in Ukraine, around 10 per cent, before the war, the probability  of many of the students  being carriers of the infection to other countries cannot be ruled out. Instead of throwing caution to the wind, health authorities should strictly monitor and screen those coming back from Ukraine to prevent covid surge " said Dr Naresh Purohit - Advisor National Communicable Disease Control Programme.

While pointing out similarities between the present Russia- Ukraine war amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Spanish flu outbreak during World War I in 1918, noted Epidemiologist Dr Purohit expressed his concern here and cautioned about an expected rise in infection rates due to mass movement of affected people and war refugees .

WHO- Covid19 technical lead Dr Purohit averred that on March 2, Russia had recorded an average of over 90,000 Covid-19 per day cases, while Ukraine had recorded a daily average of almost 5,000 cases before the start of the war.

He said that under these circumstances, it was surprising to see that students and passengers returning from Ukraine to India were not being made to take the RT-PCR tests. 

He cautioned it will be impossible to determine which student or passenger needs to be isolated.

According to  WHO recent notification the mass displacement of people in Ukraine will increase Covid transmission, warning that large numbers of people are at risk of severe disease as oxygen supplies are critically low.

Principal, Investigator for National Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme Dr Purohit said that infectious diseases ruthlessly exploit the conditions created by war and warned that refugees are particularly vulnerable to severe disease and death in wartime.

Senior Pandemic Control Expert Dr Purohit averred that nearly five crore people died from the Spanish flu during three years of the first World War so health authorities have much to learn from that incident. 

Dr Purohit stated that the first influenza virus case was documented in January 1918 in Kansas, USA; it quickly spread to New York due to transportation of large war cargos between New York and Europe. In August 1918, a more virulent strain of the influenza flu was documented in France, Sierra Leone, Spain, and the US. He said that in the next six months, the flu killed 50 million people. New research suggests this strain was essentially created in the trenches. Soldiers of allied forces with mild strains of the virus were left in the crowded trenches, while those with severe illness were sent home to Asia and Europe. When they returned home, they infect those who came in contact with them. This newer and deadlier form of the virus was a mutation. Those who recovered from the first strain in early 1918 were immune to the second mutant strain.

Acclaimed physician said that spanish flu saw four waves, with the last one in 1920. He added the pandemic isnt over yet, and needs to be taken more seriously.