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, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network 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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs