Prevention versus Reaction: Ebola, Airports, and WHO

There is an outbreak of the Ebola virus (Zaire strain) in West Africa affecting Guinea, Liberia, Mali, and Sierra Leone. Reportedly, one early patient was brought cross country on a crowded bus to Conakry, capitol of Guinea, before it was identified what he carried. Conakry’s airport services international flights. There have been two Ebola scares tied to flights out of Guinea: one in Canada and one in France.

The French Organization “Doctor’s Without Borders” called the current 2014 Guinea outbreak “unprecedented” in that it popped-up rapidly in disparate locations following its initial detection. Also unprecedented is the outbreak in a city of over 2 million, Conakry.

Speculations as to how the virus may have reached disparate areas:

(1) the virus had already been on the move under the radar before it was identified, and / or;

(2) it could be that a bush meat hunting or trapping operation culled a population of infected bats or monkeys and sold the meat on the road, or;

(3) somehow the virus was intentionally spread.

One and two are the most likely, but it may pay to see if any nation-state’s flight services ceased flying to and from the affected areas in the recent past, or, if there was a recent departure of a political adversary vying for leadership over the regime.

In any case, it seems irresponsible to continue to allow flights out of Conakry or other hot zones without fully screening would-be passengers on the ground before they ever enter a plane. Not to do so invites infection of flight crews and passenger rosters, not to mention the risk of spreading ebola to destination countries.

The time to discover symptoms is not during an international flight. Should word spread on a flight that another passenger is infected, panic could ensue on-board. That is not a good plan. Thorough screening must occur on the ground to keep Ebola (Zaire) contained.

Despite the rapidity of infection and spread, the World Health Organization has only downplayed the outbreak, and recommended that routine travel in and out of the region not be suspended at a time the virus had already reached Guinea’s capitol. Until verifiable disease control exists on the ground, WHO’s recommendation stands out as irresponsible.

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7 thoughts on “Prevention versus Reaction: Ebola, Airports, and WHO

    • There is a report of Lassa Fever having made it from Africa to the US. Not sure why these folks have to get on planes first, then be detected. From that part of the world screening on the ground ought to be mandatory during outbreaks before anyone is allowed to get on a plane with a captive group of people.

      • There is no health screening, is there!!!? People would be outraged, wouldn’t they? We were reading about the health screens at Ellis Island in our homeschool, and I was explaining why they did that back then. Seemed a little sad at times, eh? But then there’s always the “on the other hand…”

      • Today, the French government sent a team to screen passengers at the Guinea airport before getting on flights to France. I hope that all other nation states receiving flights from the hot zone do the same.

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