No confirmed or suspected Ebola cases in Ireland, says HSE

Statement follows report on Irish news website of first suspected case in State

Undated US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention photo of the ebola virus. Photograph: Frederick Murphy/CDC/PA Wire

Undated US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention photo of the ebola virus. Photograph: Frederick Murphy/CDC/PA Wire

Fri, Aug 15, 2014, 08:56

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has said there are no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola in Ireland.

The statement issued by the HSE follows a report on an Irish news website ‘The Journal’ that a room in the Mater Hospital’s isolation unit in Dublin was being prepared for a patient suspected having Ebola.

“The HSE has said this morning that there are no confirmed, or suspected, cases of Ebola in Ireland,” the HSE statement said.

“The National Isolation Unit in the Mater Hospital is used for patients with a variety of infectious diseases. Negative pressure is a feature of this specialist facility, as part of normal infection control procedures,” it said.

A spokeswoman for the Mater Hospital said it is neither preparing for nor expecting a patient with Ebola or a suspected case of Ebola.

The HSE said the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and other European disease institutes had been alerted to the Ebola outbreak in March and had informed hospitals and clinicians across the country. World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines were being followed in Ireland, it said.

Export of Ebola from “an infected area to a non-endemic country is an extremely rare event and has never occurred in Europe,” Darina O’Flanagan, director of the HPSC said in a letter published in today’s Irish Times.

She noted that “transmission of Ebola requires direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of dead, or living infected, persons”.

There was a “low riskinfected with Ebola may travel to Ireland from the affected countries,” she said. The risk of secondary transmission in healthcare of close contacts was “still considered very low if basic infection control precautions are strictly followed,” she added.

She noted there were protocols in place to protect against further spread of the disease “including transfer to the National Isolation Unit in the Mater and contact tracing of those with unprotected exposure to bodily fluids.”

Last month the HSPC said that Ireland was “well equipped” to deal with an outbreak of Ebola in the “unlikely event” of a case appearing in Ireland

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.”

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.

The Ebola virus was first diagnosed in south Guinea in February and has since spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Meanwhile the WHO said today that the number of Ebola victims in west Africa may “vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak”.

With more than 1,060 deaths and 1,975 sufferers, the Ebola outbreak is already the deadliest ever and the United Nations health agency says it is prepared for the crisis to continue for months.

The majority of cases were in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, while four people have died in Nigeria.

Additional reporting Reuters