Here is a list of the developments today.
- The suspected Ebola patient that was discussed in a Press Conference in Frisco, Texas yesterday is currently showing no signs of Ebola. Dallas County’s Sergeant. Michael Monnig entered the apartment where Thomas Eric Duncan was staying on official instruction to obtain a quarantine order. None of the people who entered the apartment that day wore protective gear.
- The suspected Ebola case in South Africa has not yet been confirmed as the deadly disease but relevant hospital staff and the patient were placed in isolation after tests were delivered to the Virologist. So far no one has confirmed whether it is Ebola or another hemorrhagic fever. All remaining staff underwent disinfection measures.
- A 56 year old man, who returned from Liberia 22 days ago, was hospitalized in Prague, Czech Republic. The patient was showing symptoms similar to EVD. Blood samples were sent to Berlin, Germany. According to local news test results will be available tomorrow.
- Dallas, Texas Hospitals have begun setting up Ebola wards in case of any future cases. The strategy is largely in preemptive and not an indication that they are expecting an epidemic.
- A building with 60 people inside was quarantined near Paris today. Authorities later confirmed that it was just a false alarm and no signs of anyone having Ebola were found.
- A 57 year old Australian woman named as Sue Kovack has been hospitalized in Cairns, Australia. She had volunteered for the Red Cross in West Africa. Sue was on a mandatory home isolation put in place for volunteers working in affected countries. She also adhered to protocols which dictated that she take her temperature twice a day. Test results are expected late Thursday evening, or early Friday morning (Australian Eastern Time).
- A British man suspected of having Ebola has died in the Republic of Macedonia. He sought treatment at the Clinic of Infectious Disease in the country’s capital Skopje. A second man believed to have the disease has been admitted to the same Hospital. Tests are currently underway.
- The Spanish Nurse, Maria Teresa Romero Ramos is reported to be deteriorating quickly. Amid her fight against the disease some Spanish medical staff are now cancelling their contracts and refusing to treat Ebola patients. Spain also had protests this week regarding the country’s decision to euthanize the Nurse’s pet, Excalibur. The Government also faced protests around the general handling of the entire situation.
The Department of Heath denied reports this morning to eNCA journalist, Uveka Rangappa that Ebola had come to the country. The story was originally reported by OFM. Joe Malia, for the Department of Health, confirmed that an elderly man was being treating for a fever in Potchefstroom but claimed that it was very likely not Ebola. He said that the patient had not traveled outside South Africa and given the lack of index patient considered it low risk. He added that despite the low risk all precautions were being taken and the man would of course be tested just in case.
Yesterday Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security echoed President Obama and reconfirmed that five major airports would implement new security measures. The Airports to be affected would be JFK, Newark, Washington Dulles, Chicago O’Hare and Atlanta. He also said that measures would include issuing ‘do not board’ orders, information and guidance to travelers, notices at airports and ‘care sheets’ for travelers. He also added that prevention would focus on targeted questions, temperature checking with non-contact thermometers and US based contact information collection.
South Africa has had temperature screening at all major Airports since the swine flu epidemic. All international arrivals are expected to stand in front of the monitor regardless of where you are coming from. If this patient is confirmed as positive they would be the first patient for the 2014 West African Outbreak. South Africa also had 2 cases of Ebola in 1996 which resulted in one death.
Ebola is a worldwide challenge and requires intervention and assistance from the global community. South Africa is arguably one of the most capable and geographically suitable countries when considering potential aid yet it has remained a small contributor to date.
The South African Department of Health sent a mobile testing laboratory to Freetown in August and contributed little over 3 million US dollars from public coffers calling on the public and private industry to provide an additional 20 million dollars. The Private sector has been slow to react and has, to date, collectively contributed less than 1 million dollars in more than a month after the Government called for assistance.
South Africa has committed to provide a 40 bed treatment facility in Freetown including qualified staff to run the unit. The Chief Director of communicable diseases at the Department of Health, Dr Frew Benson, has been quoted saying “speed is of the essence”. The South African Department of Health has already dealt with a suspected case of Ebola earlier this year when a traveler from Guinea was quarantined and tested negative for EVD.
Travel restrictions have remained in place with entry into South Africa from the affected countries severely limited. Strict monitoring occurs at the International Ports, most notably O.R Tambo International ,where fever scanners have been in use since the 2009 Flu Pandemic. To date no confirmed cases of Ebola have been reported within South African borders. The last reported case of Ebola in South Africa occurred in 1996 when a health care worker returned from Gabon carrying the disease.
Frans Viljoen, Director of the University of Pretoria’s Center for Human Rights has been critical towards the South African response to Ebola arguing that the country should be playing a major role in the efforts to stop the spread of the disease not only in West African countries but in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has noted that there is minimal risk of Ebola transmission in South Africa. The NICD considers Ebola to be a low transmission risk virus since it is not airborne and requires physical contact for transmission. Critically several global organizations have questioned the current understanding of Ebola transmission arguing evidence of short range aerosol transmissions.
A South African woman in transit through Nigeria has been isolated by officials after reporting vomiting and diarrhea on her health questionnaire required to enter the country. Reuters is reporting that the woman has been working in Sierra Leone and Guinea since April this year and was en route back to South Africa.
The Nigerian port authorities are taking the incident seriously since the South African national had been working in high risk areas. Although the symptoms are shared with many other common diseases in Africa, it is important to rule out Ebola before allowing the woman to continue her travels home.
In several suspected cases this week the results after testing for the virus have been negative, however, in this case where the individual was working in outbreak zones the fear is amplified. Nigerian officials have indicated that testing would take several days. The Italian case this week had results within 24 hours, however, testing facilities may currently be under pressure with potential backlogs from suspected cases currently awaiting confirmation of diagnosis.
Several possible cases are being reported per day outside of the high risk zones and have to date all been false alarms. Despite this it is still important for port authorities to continue their prudent behavior in an effort to prevent further spread of the lethal disease.
The identity of the Cape Town resident is being kept secret for the time being and the South African government is yet to comment on the incident. While this is not the first suspected case involving a South African citizen it is already making news around the world.
Update: The South African has tested negative for the Ebola virus