News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search

 


Ebola screening at NZ airports - expert responds

Ebola screening at NZ airports - expert responds
Screening of at-risk passengers will begin at airports as part of increased efforts to prevent Ebola reaching New Zealand undetected, the Ministry of Health announced today.

The Ministry of Health website cautions:

"The risk of a traveller arriving in New Zealand with Ebola virus disease (EVD) remains very low.

"However, travellers arriving in New Zealand who in the last three weeks have visited West African countries affected by the Ebola viral disease outbreak will be screened for symptoms of the disease and where necessary receive a health assessment."


The latest update from the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that, as of August 6,
the cumulative number of cases of Ebola cases in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria stands at 1779, including 961 deaths.

The SMC approached infectious disease experts for reaction to the announcement. Further comments will be sent out as they are received.

Prof John Crump, McKinlay Professor of Global Health and Co-Director Centre for International Health, University of Otago, responded to the following questions:

What is involved in screening for the Ebola virus at border checkpoints? What is the likelihood of detecting the virus this way? Is this just a precautionary measure?

"The New Zealand Passenger Arrival Card, completed by all people arriving in New Zealand overseas, includes a request to list all countries that they have been in during the past 30 days. This would serve as the primary method of identifying those who have travelled to affected areas. Fever is the most common initial symptom of ebola virus disease (EVD), but is also a feature of many infectious diseases that are far more common than EVD. The screening approach would detect possible cases of EVD disease among travelers who accurately report their travel history and who have symptomatic infection. It also affords the opportunity to provide EVD advice to well travelers from affected areas who might develop fever or other symptoms after arrival in New Zealand. New Zealand's geographic isolation, lack of direct flights from west Africa, and limited travel volume from west Africa means that the risk of some one arriving in New Zealand with EVD is low, so the screening approach represents an abundance of caution."

Would someone travelling to New Zealand from countries where the outbreak is taking place be likely to show overt symptoms by the time they arrived?

"Not necessarily. The incubation period for EVD is up to three weeks, so symptoms could develop after arrival. That is why information is being provided to apparently healthy travelers from affected areas as well."

If Ebola did arrive in this country, what would the likely impact be?

"New Zealand hospitals are quite capable of instituting the infection control practices needed to protect healthcare workers and others from ebola infection. These practices are used routinely for other much more common, albeit less deadly, infections. The experience gained and measures in place to deal with other epidemic infectious diseases such as SARS Coronavirus and H1N1 influenza mean that health care facilities are prepared. The world has the advantage of knowing ebola since 1976, so we understand how it is transmitted. New Zealand has the advantage of having many months since the onset of the current outbreak to prepare."

Why do people survive Ebola?

"Supportive care, that is, managing oxygen and breathing; fluids and electrolytes; and bacterial super-infections can substantially lower the case fatality ratio of EVD. The strain of the virus is also important. Ebolavirus Zaire appears to carry a higher case fatality ratio than Ebolavirus Sudan, for example. We don't know as much as we would like to about patient factors that improve outcomes. Some patients clearly develop an immune response that ultimately clears the virus sometime during the second week of disease; supportive care aims to get get people the best chance by getting them through to when an effective immune response develops. While supportive care can improve survival, a large proportion of people with EVD will still die."

How does the spread of this virus compare to other deadly viruses?

"Ebola is not transmitted by the airborne route. Instead it is transmitted by close contact with patients (both alive and dead), specifically contact with their body fluids (blood, vomit, saliva, sweat, semen, etc). By contrast other potentially fatal virus infections like measles and chicken pox are spread by the airborne route and you can become infected just by breathing the same air as the patient."

In your opinion, are the public at risk of overreacting to the threat the virus poses? Are there any misconceptions about how the virus spreads, or how deadly it is, that you would like to respond to?

"Today 500 people will die of typhoid fever and 3,000 from malaria world wide and many more will be sickened. It is important that we keep EVD in perspective with other global infectious diseases problems. The concern is that the latest ebola outbreak has occurred in countries with recent histories of civil war, fragile health infrastructure, limited resources, weak organizational capability, poverty, and traditional beliefs and practices that may facilitate spread and make control more challenging. It is essential that the global community support Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia with the resources, personnel, and expertise needed to control the outbreak to prevent more deaths and wider regional spread. Our concern should first be for the citizens of those countries affected and for those trying to help. The risk to us is quite remote."

Any other points you would like to emphasise?

"Work has been done to design vaccines and treatments for EVD. However, since EVD has occurred in small outbreaks of short duration, it has been difficult to take these products through the phases of studies needed to confirm safety and efficacy, which often take years."

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

 
Max Rashbrooke: Review - The NZSO And Nature

This was a lovely, varied concert with an obvious theme based on the natural world. It kicked off with Mendelssohn's sparkling Hebrides Overture, which had a wonderfully taut spring right from the start, and great colour from the woodwinds, especially the clarinets. More>>

Scoop Review Of Books: Q&A: Prue Hyman On ‘Hopes Dashed?’

For Scoop Review of Books, Alison McCulloch interviewed Prue Hyman about her new book, part of the BWB Texts series, Hopes Dashed? The Economics of Gender Inequality More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Chuck Berry (And James Comey, And Bill English)

Back when many people were still treating rock’n’roll as a passing fad – was calypso going to be the new thing? – Chuck Berry knew that it had changed popular music forever. What is even more astonishing is that this 30-ish black r&b musician from a middle class family in St Louis could manage to recreate the world of white teenagers, at a time when the very notion of a “teenager” had just been invented. More>>

Howard Davis Review:
The Baroque Fusion Of L'arpeggiata

Named after a toccata by German composer Girolamo Kapsberger, L'Arpeggiata produces its unmistakable sonority mainly from the resonance of plucked strings, creating a tightly-woven acoustic texture that is both idiosyncratic and immediately identifiable. Director Christina Pluhar engenders this distinctive tonality associated with the ensemble she founded in 2000 by inviting musicians and vocalists from around the world to collaborate on specific projects illuminated by her musicological research. More>>

African Masks And Sculpture: Attic Discovery On Display At Expressions Whirinaki

Ranging from masks studded with nails and shards of glass to statues laden with magical metal, the works are from ethnic groups in nine countries ranging from Ivory Coast to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
Health
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news