News / Asia

Asia on Alert for Ebola Outbreak

CDC map of east Africa, areas with confirmed and probable cases of EbolaCDC map of east Africa, areas with confirmed and probable cases of Ebola
x
CDC map of east Africa, areas with confirmed and probable cases of Ebola
CDC map of east Africa, areas with confirmed and probable cases of Ebola

The largest known outbreak of the lethal Ebola virus in West Africa is prompting authorities as far away as Asia to take preventive measures, although scientists say a global spread of the disease is unlikely.

At South Korea's Incheon International airport, a major  hub for air travel in Asia, quarantine inspections of arriving passengers are being enhanced.

Screening passengers

Authorities say all passengers are being recorded by an infrared camera to detect fevers.

South Korea Foreign Ministry spokesperson Han Hye-jin says this is being done because Ebola is becoming a big concern.

She says the South Korean government, in association with health authorities, is paying attention and carefully determining if additional measures are needed.

The country's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it established an Ebola task force in April and is prepared for possible infections in South Korea.

Citizens urged to avoid affected countries

Ebola Factbox

Outbreaks of Ebola are life-threatening and in up to 90% of cases, people die.

  • In most instances, outbreaks have occurred in remote villages of Central andWest Africa, close to tropical rainforests
  • The virus is transmitted to humans from wild animals and spreads human-to-human through exposure to organs, blood and other bodily fluids
  • Presently no specific treatment or vaccine is available for people, nor for animals

Content sourced from World Health Organization

 

It is also urging South Koreans not to visit the affected African countries.

Australia is also cautioning against travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Australia's chief medical officer, Chris Baggoley, says the possibility of Ebola arriving there is "very low." But all border protection agencies are on alert for possible symptoms in people arriving by air or sea.

Dr. Nicholas Day, director of the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Bangkok, says these enhanced port screenings, implemented in Asia during previous swine and bird flu scares, are no panacea.

"It hasn't really, to my knowledge, been conclusively proven that it's an effective public health measure. It makes people feel happier that something is being done. But remember that people with flu, for example, don't have to be symptomatic when they come through. If you're screening using an infrared camera for temperature detection it doesn't necessarily pick up people who are infected. The same is true for Ebola," said Day.

Incubation: 2 - 21 days

The incubation period of the Ebola virus is between two and 21 days, during which time an infected person might not show any signs of infection.

In Hong Kong, the Center for Health Protection says public hospitals will begin to report and test all those who developed fever who, within the past 21 days, traveled to the three affected African countries.

Although there are no direct flights from west Africa to Hong Kong, the city's health minister, Dr. Ko Wing-man, expresses concern that infections could still enter the region via a plane flight.

Quarentine suspected cases

Hong Kong's health minister issued the warning following an emergency meeting held with specialists to discuss contingency plans should there be an outbreak there, some 13,000 kilometers from west Africa.

Ko says, "suspected cases will be put into isolation as soon as they are identified."

Hong Kong newspapers say 59 isolation wards are available at Princess Margaret Hospital for any suspected Ebola cases.

The city has seen one scare, so far. A 39-year-old Hong Kong woman, who recently traveled to Kenya, was placed in isolation at Queen Elizabeth's hospital after vomiting and developing a fever. Hong Kong's Hospital Authority says she tested negative for the virus and has been released.

Health Minister: low public risk

Singapore's health ministry is urging the public there "not to be alarmed." It has issued a statement deeming Ebola to pose "a low public health risk to Singapore," in part because "there is low travel connectivity to West Africa where the current outbreak remains limited to."

Singapore's Chiangi Airport is ranked the world's fifth busiest with more than 52 million passengers in 2013.

Suvarnabhumi, just outside Bangkok, is one of the world's busiest airports with more than 30 million passengers passing through every year. Thai officials say only 30 to 50 persons per week are believed to come from the countries with the current Ebola outbreak.

So far, no special screenings for Ebola among incoming passengers are being implemented. But all hospitals in Thailand are being ordered to monitor patients for any related symptoms, particularly those who have traveled to the outbreak area.

Spreaded by direct contact with bodily fluids

Some airlines have suspended flights into the affected region. But health authorities say there is little risk of passengers contracting the virus on a flight from an infected person.

Dr. Day, a tropical medicine researcher, explains Ebola is only spread through direct contact with blood, saliva and other bodily fluids.

"The reason why everyone is scared about this, and I think quite reasonably so, is that this is a particularly horrible disease. It's luckily quite difficult to transmit unless you're in actual physical contact with a patient. So with standard public health and clinical isolation, quarantine measures, it should be possible to contain any outbreak," said Day.

Since March, there have been more than 1,200 confirmed Ebola cases in West Africa. This is believed to be a new strain of the virus and nearly 700 of those infected in this worst-known outbreak have died.

Liberia is quarantining some communities, closing all schools and some markets while placing all non-essential government personnel on 30-day leave. Public gatherings have already been banned.

Sierra Leone's president, declaring a public health emergency on Thursday, called on security forces to enforce quarantine measures to prevent a further spread of infections.

No known cure

There is no known cure for Ebola. It was first recognized in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1976.  There is no approved vaccine, but at least four are under development.

Ebola is a hemorrhagic fever with a fatality rate in human of up to 90 percent. It primarily occurs in remote villages in central and western Africa, near tropical rain forests. The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals. Fruit bats are considered to be the virus' natural host.

Additional reporting by Youmi Kim in Seoul


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

In suppressing protest news, China reportedly has arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who acted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters More

Competing Goals Could Frustrate Efforts to Fight Islamic State

As alliances shift and countries re-define themselves, analysts say long-standing goals of some key players in Middle East may soon compete with Western goals More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: abdella from: mecca
July 31, 2014 9:21 PM
Ebola is adangrous disease


by: meanbill from: USA
July 31, 2014 12:42 PM
THE EXPERTS say.... That the risk of Ebola becoming a worldwide epidemic is almost impossible, (but), when the doctors and nurses (who take every precaution when treating Ebola patients) start dying from it, and the world health organizations are recalling their medical people, I think it's time to start worrying..... It's already spreading from people to people and countries to countries, and only God knows where it'll pop up next..... (How long do you wait before going to see a doctor, when experiencing flu-like systems?).... Yea, don't worry?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid