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Ebola crackdown! US quarantines and Brisbane on alert

October 27, 2014 Destination Global, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59People flying internationally from West Africa and falling ill with fevers and Ebola (suspected or proven) after arrival at their destinations triggered alerts in both the US and Australia over the weekend.

In the US, New York confirmed its first Ebola case and three states went ahead unilaterally and imposed 21-day quarantines for arrivals from the Ebola zone: the three West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Many people have been calling for such measures for weeks, accusing health authorities and the World Health Organisation (WHO) of consistently understating the case.

A doctor who recently returned to New York after treating Ebola patients in Guinea tested positive for the deadly virus at the weekend, the first confirmed case in the city. He had flown back to New York, travelled by subway and visited a bowling alley shortly before developing fever. Medical teams are now trying to trace his movements and contacts. The contacts will be isolated when found.

In Queensland meanwhile, a patient who recently travelled from West Africa has been isolated at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital after flying to Australia from Guinea.

The 18-year-old West African woman flew to Brisbane 11 days ago and “home quarantined” (stayed at home voluntarily), the Brisbane Times reported. She had no known contact with sufferers of the disease, Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young said yesterday.

The woman, who had come to Brisbane with her family, has developed a fever. She has undergone initial testing for the Ebola virus, which proved negative this morning, and will have a second test  in three days. Dr Young said the woman was moving to Australia with her family of six children and two other adults.

Cases of Ebola in the infected zone of West Africa have now leapt to over 10,000. About half have died. The number of people infected with the disease, which kills up to 70% of sufferers, is roughly doubling every three to four weeks. The disease has now spread to Mali from Guinea after an infected child travelled there by bus. When sufferers reach the fever stage they are highly infectious  – a touch is enough to spread the disease.

The US has now had two cases of air travellers who appeared healthy at airports, only to develop the disease after arrival. The possibility also exists that someone could pass through screening at an airport of exit, and fall ill during a lengthy international flight, or series of flights.

Worries such as these have spurred Illinois, Chicago’s state, to join New York and New Jersey in deciding to quarantine anyone arriving at its airports who has had contact with Ebola patients. That way, anyone developing Ebola after arrival can quickly be treated, reducing the risk of spreading the virus further.

So far, such people have been asked only to “self-quarantine” or “home quarantine” – in other words, to stay at home for 21 days, until they are no longer at risk.

Concern is growing that this measure doesn’t go nearly far enough.

“Voluntary quarantine – no, it’s almost an oxymoron,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo protested. “This is a very serious situation. Voluntary quarantine – raise your right hand and promise you’re going to stay home for 21 days, right? We’ve seen what happens on a number of cases.”

People ended up leaving their homes, whether out of boredom or the seemingly innocent need to run an errand, Cuomo said.

Cuomo and his counterpart in New Jersey, Chris Christie, have announced mandatory quarantines. A top US health official says the US government is considering tighter measures across America.

While health authorities continue to stress that there is no need to panic, Ebola is spooking travel investors and the travelling public.

In Australia, renowned Africa specialist wholesaler Bench International has said it will permit clients to defer travel without penalty if they find Ebola is affecting areas where they had planned to travel.

There is no Ebola in South Africa, Kenya, southern or East Africa. The scourge is confined so far to West Africa – with occasional exports to more distant countries by passengers travelling on commercial flights.

Australia’s ­federal government is considering a plan to help send volunteer medical teams to West Africa to fight the disease — but only on condition that the workers are ­quarantined overseas for 21 days before returning to Australia, according to a report in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph this morning. Quite where they would be quarantined, or who would administer it, is unclear.

Written by Peter Needham

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