SUVA, 22 August: The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa continues to evolve, with cases now confirmed in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. No cases have been confirmed anywhere else in the world.
Ebola is a severe, and often fatal, illness in humans and is a major health concern in West Africa with over 2,000 people now infected.
Ebola can only be spread through direct contact with a sick person’s blood or body fluids; with the blood or body fluids of a person who has died from Ebola; or from exposure to objects, such as needles, contaminated with the Ebola virus. There is no evidence that the Ebola virus is spread through the air. Those at most risk of infection have been health workers and family members who have cared for sick people infected with Ebola.
“Because transmission of Ebola can only occur through close contact with an infected person the current risk that the virus will be brought into the Pacific is low” said Dr Liu Yunguo, WHO Director, Pacific Technical Support.
“However, given the seriousness of the outbreak, WHO recommend that Pacific island countries and areas review and if necessary strengthen contingency plans for identification and control of serious diseases, including Ebola” Dr Liu went on to say.
On 8 August, Dr Margaret Chan, WHO’s Director General, declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a public health emergency of international health concern. While acknowledging the low risk for spread of Ebola outside the West African region, Dr Chan called on all countries, including Pacific Island Countries and Areas, to take action to be prepared. To date 2240 cases have been identified, of which 1229 have died. All cases have been in West Africa.