Ebola health alert issued, minimal risk for Maldives

The Ministry of Health has issued a health alert regarding the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, although the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has said the risk is minimal for the Maldives.

“We have discussed this with the WHO as well, the risk is minimal for Maldives,” said Dr Aishath Aroona, an epidemiologist at the HPA.

” It is very unlikely as there are very few people going or coming from these three countries to Maldives, and infection control in the Maldives is very effective,” she said.

The health ministry has warned against travelling to the three countries in which the disease have been found – Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

The ministry requested anyone who has travelled to these countries to look for symptoms of the disease for 21 days and to seek medical assistance should any be recognised.

Meanwhile, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) is working with the Department of Immigration and Emigration to identify people arriving in the Maldives from these countries.

These people will be checked at the airport’s health counter and released if the virus is not found. The HPA will keep track of those released, advising them to report immediately if any symptoms are found. In this event, the agency recommends people visit the major tertiary hospitals rather that health centers and clinics.

Additionally, the agency has sent infection control guidelines to to all health service providers around the country – including those at tourist resorts – to ensure the safety of patients and staff. Doctors are asked to take great care and proper measures to avoid infection, including the use of gloves and waterproof clothing.

Dr Aroona said that WHO is working in these countries to ensure no infected person travels abroad in order to minimise the risk of a global outbreak.

The disease

The health ministry alert referred to WHO warnings regarding the virus noting that, while it is currently known to be transmitted only through direct contact and bodily fluids of an infected person, the possibility of the virus being transmitted through other means is still under investigation.

The WHO has reported total of 1,603 cases and 887 deaths since March in the three afflicted West African countries. While Nigeria has reported three probable cases there is no outbreak in the country, with further information revealing that one of the three had come to the country from Liberia.

The incubation period between infection and the onset of symptoms can last from two to 21 days.

After this period the first symptoms of the disease which become visible include fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache, and a sore throat. This is followed by diarrhoea and vomitting.

The disease can impair the functioning of organs such as the kidneys and liver and can results in internal and external bleeding. Currently there is no vaccine or cure for Ebola and past outbreaks have had fatality rates of up to 90 percent.

More information on the Ebola virus disease have been provided by the WHO here.