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West Africa Ebola Outbreaks Spur Rising International SOS Inquiries

  • James Butty

FILE - UNICEF health workers teach people about the Ebola virus and how to prevent infection, in Conakry, Guinea, March 31, 2014..

FILE - UNICEF health workers teach people about the Ebola virus and how to prevent infection, in Conakry, Guinea, March 31, 2014..

The medical and travel security group known as International SOS says the number of requests it received for advice on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was up by 400 percent in the month of June.

The World Health Organization announced Tuesday that the number of Ebola cases rose to 964, including 603 deaths.

Doctor Robert Quigley, vice president for medical assistance at the International SOS says 56 percent of the requests were generated in guinea while 17 percent came from Liberia and 16 percent from Sierra Leone.

He said his organization gives advice to over 100 client organizations with physicians working in areas where Ebola cases have been confirmed and to business travelers and expatriates.

“Since the initial outbreak which was sometimes in March of this year in several countries in Africa, we’ve had a 400 percent increase predominantly just in the last two months,” he said.

Doctor Quigley said most of the calls are from business travelers, organizations, and individuals, people who have a vested interest in Ebola and the epidemiology associated with it.

He also said media reports on the wave of Ebola outbreaks in West Africa also played a significant role in heightening interest.

“Every time there’s a new wave, there’s a new amount of information available in the social media and in the news, and consequently there’s more and more exposure to these business travelers who are having concern. And any of these travelers that happen to subscribe to our business will call us and get information from subject matter experts,” Quigley said.

Doctor Quigley said a significant number of inquiries have also come from the United Kingdom, which he attributes to the UK being what he called a kind of a hub for international business travel.

Doctor Quigley said International SOS has developed a toolkit to educate medical staff and local populations on how to recognize Ebola and prevent its transmission to other individuals.

He said the risk to business travelers is low, if they follow the proper procedures. Quigley said business travelers and expatriates who need medical assistance should be aware that going to a local hospital that might be treating people with Ebola is risky.

Asked whether he has found some misconceptions about the causes of Ebola, especially the consumption of “bush meat”, Quigley said there’s no doubt that bush meat can serve as a source of the Ebola virus.

“As you know, bush meat is ubiquitous in certain parts of Africa and considered even a staple in many of the diets particularly of the local folks. And unfortunately the harsh reality is that this disease can be transmitted through bush meat,” he said.

He said the International SOS follows the guidelines of both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control in advising business travelers not to consume bush meat.