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

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: US Army Turns Its Best Minds Toward Ebola

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Dissident Venezuelan General Resurfaces in New York

Antonio Rivero has resurfaced after nearly a year in hiding, appearing at United Nations in New York 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.
Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Goghi
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid