Officials keep close eye on Ebola spread

Health and air transport authorities are closely monitoring the Ebola outbreak in Africa and are putting in place measures to detect any possible spread of the infection, officials say.

  • Published: 1/08/2014 at 06:03 AM
  • Newspaper section: news

About 100 people from countries affected by the Ebola outbreak come to Thailand each month, so the Public Health Ministry has implemented a surveillance programme to monitor them, said Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, deputy director-general of the Department of Disease Control.

When arriving in Thailand, visitors from Ebola-affected countries are required to identify themselves to health officials and provide contact addresses in case they are suspected of having contracted the virus, said Dr Opas.

Countries affected by the outbreak are Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, he said, adding that Nigeria is not on the watch list because Nigerians infected by the virus had caught it in Liberia.

Dr Opas urged Thais planning to travel to Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone, to consider cancelling the trips.

But if the trips are necessary, they must contact the nearest Thai consular office upon arrival, Dr Opas said.

Ebola is transmitted in a similar manner to HIV/Aids and hepatitis, he said, adding the virus could be passed from one infected person to another through direct contact with body fluids.

No airborne transmission of the Ebola virus has been reported so far, said the doctor.

Permanent secretary for public health, Narong Sahametapat, said as of yet there have been no reports of Ebola infections spreading to Thailand.

However, the ministry has begun implementing three disease surveillance and prevention measures in case the virus spreads to Thailand, although the risk was low, according to Dr Narong.

In the first measure, the Bureau of Epidemiology has been asked to closely monitor the outbreak situation from updates provided by the World Health Organisation.

Provincial public health offices nationwide, meanwhile, are being told to watch for signs of Ebola infections, especially in tourists.

In the second measure, the same standards of disease screening used with avian flu and severe acute respiratory syndrome are being maintained at state hospitals across the country.

In the third measure, the Department of Medical Science, in cooperation with the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, is preparing its laboratories for Ebola tests.

Members of the public are warned against touching wild animals imported to the country, even if they appear to be in good health, said Dr Narong.

He also warned against eating food made from monkey, bat, or similar species, that have died of unknown causes.

Suraphon Israngura Na Ayuthya, acting executive vice-president for commerce at Thai Airways International (THAI), said the Ebola outbreak has not caused any significant disruption to operations or passenger bookings.

THAI has assigned its Crisis Management Operations Centre to closely monitor the Ebola outbreak situation, he said.

Airports of Thailand (AoT) president Mekin Petplai said the AoT had not been asked to to implement extra measures by the Public Health Ministry or the World Health Organisation.

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