Ethiopia has set up a national committee to draw up a plan to prevent and contain any possible outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, which is currently sweeping West Africa, the country’s Public Health Institute said.
“A national committee is set up to design a guideline enabling to prevent Ebola,” institute spokesperson Abel Yeshaneh told Anadolu Agency. "The guideline will be made official soon.”
“Members of the committee are drawn from the Ethiopian Airlines, the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders,” he said.
Ethiopia's national flag carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, which operates extensive flight network connecting affected West Africa countries to other parts of the world, said that it is implementing “precautions in connection with the outbreak of the disease in some parts of West Africa.”
While continuing daily flights as usual, the national carrier said “stringent and specific surveillance is being carried out regarding all flights from West Africa at Addis Ababa airport.”
Thus far, Abel said, there is no reported case of Ebola in Ethiopia.
Ebola, a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure, can be transmitted to humans from wild animals and also spreads through contact with the body fluids of an infected person or someone who has died of the disease.
Medical doctors say common symptoms of Ebola include high fever and headaches, followed by bleeding from openings in the body.
The tropical fever, which first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, has killed 208 people in Guinea, 60 in Liberia and 188 in Sierra Leone until July 23.
The epidemic has since spilled over to Nigeria, amid fears of spreading to other African countries.
S. Africa has 'low risk' of Ebola outbreak
A top South African scientist believes there is a low risk for an outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in South Africa, mainly because those infected in other African countries would not be able to travel since they are too ill.
‘‘An ill patient with Ebola is unlikely to get on a plane,’’ Professor Lucille Blumberg, Deputy Director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), told reporters on Friday in Johannesburg.
She also said South Africa will not accept entry of foreign nationals seeking treatment in the country after they have been diagnosed with the EVD.
"If it is undiagnosed, they will be cared for,’’ Blumberg said Friday during a media briefing, which was also addressed by Prof. Shabir Madhi, the NICD Executive Director, and Prof. Janusz Paweska, head of the special pathogens department at the institute.
Blumberg said there was only one imported Ebola case documented in South Africa in 1996. The case involved a Gabonese doctor who was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital. A nurse caring for the patient became infected and died.
Currently, there are no confirmed cases of Ebola in South Africa, despite the frequency of travels between South Africa and the affected West African countries.
To date ,there has only been one case of imported Ebola virus Diseases (EVD) reported in Nigeria, involving a 40-year-old Liberian national who travelled by air on July 20 to Nigeria. He was admitted to a hospital with symptoms of the disease and died a few days later.
The EVD, which has claimed hundreds of lives in West African countries, is transmitted to humans through direct contact with blood, secretions, or other bodily fluids of infected animals –such as Chimpanzees, gorillas, bats, and monkeys among others.
According to scientists, once a person is infected, the Ebola virus could spread to other people in the community who have direct contact with the infectious person.
According to the world Health Organization (WHO), some of the symptoms of the Ebola virus are characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat.
‘‘This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function. And in some cases, both internal and external bleeding," the WHO says on its website.
The South African government has already announced precautionary measures to prevent access to the deadly virus by ordering port health authorities to look out for signs and symptoms in travelers entering the country.
“Port Health officials are on high alert since the beginning of the outbreak,” the National Department of Health said in a Wednesday press release.
The department said it had circulated an alert and case definition to the Environmental Health Directorate, including Port Health officials, provinces and the Civil Aviation Authority following the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.
“The alert emphasized that all Port Health officials should be aware of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak and have a high index of suspicion for travelers with the EVD signs and symptoms,” the statement read.
Hundreds of people have been killed by the Ebola virus since its outbreak in the West Africa counties of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.
On Tuesday, West African airline Asky suspended flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone over concerns about the spread of the deadly virus.