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Ebola deaths rise, officials urge exit screenings at airports

Tuesday August 19, 2014
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The suspected and confirmed case count of Ebola virus disease reached 2,240, according to a World Health Organization Aug. 19 update, with suspected case deaths at 1,229. To reduce the likelihood those who are infected will spread the disease outside their communities, the governments in affected west African countries have set up quarantine zones in areas of high transmission, according to WHO.

The outbreak has prompted concern over the disease’s continued spread, the availability of experimental vaccines and the safety of healthcare workers participating in humanitarian efforts in west African countries.

On Aug. 18, WHO announced it is urging countries affected by Ebola to “conduct exit screening at international airports, seaports and land crossings,” according to a USA Today article.

“Any person with an illness consistent with [Ebola] should not be allowed to travel unless the travel is part of an appropriate medical evacuation,” WHO said, according to the article. “There should be no international travel of Ebola contacts or cases, unless the travel is part of an appropriate medical evacuation.”

The recommendation came from a task force that includes health officials, the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Air Transport Association, according to the article.

A WHO Aug. 15 update stated the high level of fear and anxiety regarding Ebola and the resulting media coverage has created “unrealistic expectations” about experimental medicines and vaccines. “The public needs to understand that these medical products are under investigation,” according to the statement. “They have not yet been tested in humans and are not approved by regulatory authorities, beyond use for compassionate care. ... Safety is also unknown, raising the possibility of adverse side effects when administered to humans.”

However, the update also stated that the organization “has advised that the use of experimental medicines and vaccines under the exceptional circumstances of this outbreak is ethically acceptable.”

The outbreak is expected to continue for some time, according to the update, which also stated that evidence indicated the reported case counts and number of deaths have “vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak.”

WHO also expressed concerns for health workers in west Africa in an Aug. 18 news release, and called for an end to “the targeting of health workers in conflicts and other humanitarian crises, which represent a breach of the fundamental right to health.”

Threats and harassment of health workers in west African countries dealing with the Ebola virus disease outbreak also has become worrisome. “Assaults on health workers and facilities seriously affect access to healthcare, depriving patients of treatment and interrupting measures to prevent and control contagious diseases,” Richard Brennan, director of WHO’s department of emergency risk management and humanitarian response, MD, said in the release. “WHO has a specific mandate to protect the human right to health, especially for people affected by humanitarian emergencies.”

Meanwhile, the New Mexico Department of Health is working with the CDC to rule out Ebola in a 30-year-old woman who developed a sore throat, headache, muscle aches and fever, according to a KOAT.com Aug. 18 article. The woman is listed in stable condition at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.

The woman, a teacher, had no known exposures to Ebola. She had been in Sierra Leone, Africa, and left on Aug. 4, according to the article. Test results are expected by the end of the week.


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