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Urgent DFAT advisory on West Africa Ebola outbreak

August 6, 2014 Destination Global, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) last night issued a new advisory bulletin about the travel implication of the outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa, which is says continues to be “of significant concern”.

DFAT’s move coincides with a decision by British Airways to suspend flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia. The airline’s action follows similar moves by African carriers and a decision by Emirates to suspend flights to the Ebola-infected West African nation of Guinea. BA’s move cuts off the only direct links between Britain and west Africa.

BA usually operates a direct flight four times a week from London to Sierra Leone and on to Liberia. It suspended the flight “due to the deteriorating public health situation both countries”.


DFAT’s advisory bulletin follows:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) initially identified the outbreak in forested areas of south eastern Guinea in March 2014. The number of cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia continue to climb making this the most serious outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in recorded history

Across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia there have been more than 885 deaths from over 1600 clinical cases. In addition, Nigeria now has three probable cases and one suspected case.

The Ebola virus causes EVD in humans, with a fatality rate of up to 90%. The symptoms of EVD are severe and can include high fever, muscle pain and weakness, headache and sore throat, followed by vomiting, diarrhoea and internal and external bleeding. There is no known vaccine or cure for Ebola The virus can be transmitted to humans from wild animals or between humans through bodily fluids, including blood, faeces and sweat. Transmission can also occur through direct contact with the body of a deceased Ebola patient.

Travel Implications

We advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. This reflects the seriousness of the outbreak, the challenges in containing the virus and the evolving travel restrictions.

Australian embassy personnel have deferred travel plans to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as a result of the Ebola outbreak. We recommend Australian travellers do the same. Areas in these three countries that are affected by the Ebola virus are mentioned in relevant country travel advisories.

Travel movements and services have been significantly affected. Liberia has announced a state of public emergency and has closed the majority of its borders in a bid to combat the spread of the disease. Those entry points that remain open, such as Roberts International Airport in Monrovia, are being used as Ebola prevention and screening centres. Similarly, Sierra Leone has imposed a 60-90 day state of emergency, which enables the military to enforce quarantine zones, restrict public movements and limit public gatherings. Guinea is looking at similar measures.

Health screening is being undertaken at many international airports that have direct flights into the region or that are major air travel hubs. Some carriers have indefinitely suspended flights into affected countries. Check with your carrier for the most up to date information on flight schedules and possible cancellations.

Should you decide to travel to these countries despite our recommendations, closely monitor the advice provided by local health authorities and the WHO. In addition, we advise you to maintain strict standards of hygiene and avoid direct contact with patients with Ebola or unknown illnesses. Avoid contact with any objects that could have been contaminated with bodily fluids.

Travellers should also avoid contact with wild animals and should not eat or handle raw or undercooked animal products, such as blood and meat Know the symptoms of EVD (see the link to the WHO Ebola factsheet below) and see a healthcare provider immediately if they develop before or after travel. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider and Australian border officials that you have travelled to a region where Ebola was present.

You should be aware that medical evacuations for any potential Ebola patient will be extremely difficult to conduct. The standards of local emergency health care in affected countries are well below Australian standards. The Australian Government may have limited options in providing consular assistance in these circumstances. If you are in or considering travelling to affected countries, please contact your travel insurance provider to check the details of your cover.

Domestically, Australia has one of the best biosecurity systems in the world and border agencies are watching the outbreak closely. As part of routine procedures, incoming flights to Australia have on-board announcements, asking passengers who are feeling unwell with fever, chills or sweats to alert a crew member. Crew members will alert border protection and biosecurity staff for follow-up health procedures.

For more information about the Ebola virus, see the WHO Ebola factsheet. For information about the current outbreak in West Africa, see the WHO disease outbreak news page.

Edited by : Peter Needham

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