Ireland ‘well equipped’ to deal with Ebola outbreak

Likelihood of outbreak of Ebola virus in Ireland ‘very low’, says HSPC

Undated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) handout photo of the Ebola virus. Photograph:  Frederick Murphy/CDC/PA Wire

Undated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) handout photo of the Ebola virus. Photograph: Frederick Murphy/CDC/PA Wire

Wed, Jul 30, 2014, 15:37

The likelihood of an outbreak of the Ebola virus in Ireland is “very low”, according to the Health Protection Surveillance centre (HSPC).

A statement from the HSPC confirmed that Ireland was “well equipped” to deal with an outbreak of Ebola in the “unlikely event” of a case appearing in Ireland

“Ireland is well equipped and its doctors and nurses are supplied with specialist knowledge to deal with a case effectively,’ said the statement, adding that the National Isolation Unit at the Mater hospital in Dublin was available for use should a case of the disease arise.

The Ebola virus was first diagnosed in south Guinea in February and has since spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Liberia closed most of its border crossings and introduced stringent health measures on Sunday, while the Nigerian city of Lagos yesterday shut and quarantined a hospital where a Liberian man died of the disease. The disease has killed over 670 people in West Africa since February. It is the largest outbreak of the disease on record.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has called on Irish travellers returning from trips to affected areas in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to monitor their body temperature following their return. If they develop a fever over 38 degrees, they are urged to seek “urgent medical attention.”

A spokesman for the department said that advice for Irish citizens currently in affected areas has been issued by the Irish Embassies in Freetown and Lagos.

Ebola is a virus transmitted through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids from infected people, both dead and alive. It can also be transmitted through unprotected sexual contact with patients that have recovered from the disease. Symptoms of the disease include a high fever, bleeding, liver and kidney malfunction and central nervous system damage.

According to Dr Graham Fry from the Irish Tropical Medical Bureau, Ebola kills up to 80 per cent of people who contract it. “When you compare that to SARS which killed 10 per cent of people, this is hugely more serious, and SARS was a disaster.”

The Ebola virus is not highly contagious and does not pass through air like influenza. Only people in close personal contact with patients are at risk, said Dr Fry, adding that about 30 per cent of fatalities have occurred among doctors and nurses.

Although healthcare professionals have yet to find the “perfect treatment” for the Ebola virus, Dr Fry is confident that Ireland is safe from the disease. “The major difference between Ireland and other European countries is we don’t have direct flights to West Africa. We have a buffer zone where other countries are more likely to pick it up.”

The UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told the BBC today that Ebola poses a threat in the UK and that the government was viewing the outbreak very seriously.