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Ebola risk to Fiji low

Torika Chandra
Saturday, August 30, 2014

THE risk of the Ebola virus coming into Fiji is low, says the World Health Organization.

WHO emerging disease surveillance and response, division of Pacific technical support Eric Nilles said Ebola would have to be imported, that is sick people coming to Fiji from countries with the virus transmission such as West Africa.

"This is very unlikely because of the very long distance from the affected areas of West Africa, because multiple flight segments are required, and because few travellers from West Africa visit the Pacific and vice versa," Mr Nilles said.

"Furthermore, regions with exponentially higher travel volume with the affected West African countries than Fiji — particularly Europe, the Middle East and North America — have not recorded a single case of imported Ebola. As such, the probability of Fiji or another remote and small Pacific Island nation importing a case of Ebola at the present time, given the lack of substantial Ebola spread outside of West Africa, is low."

Mr Nilles said Ebola was not spread easily through the air, and transmission was mostly from people having close contact with very sick patients or dead bodies of those who died from Ebola.

He said while the risk of Ebola in the Pacific was low, strengthening prevention and control measures was prudent and recommended by WHO.

"The Pacific Island countries and areas have been strengthening their capacities to respond to serious public health threats since (at least) the SARS outbreak in 2003.

"Most Pacific countries, including Fiji, have established protocols in place to promptly identify and respond to serious diseases such as Ebola. Many Pacific Island nations are reviewing and strengthening these capacities."

He confirmed that WHO was providing additional Ebola-specific guidance and technical advice to Pacific Island countries such as Fiji to enhance the prevention and control mechanisms for this disease.

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