Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 27th 2014 Contents A19
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SINGAPORE---The longer the Ebola outbreak
rages in West Africa, the greater chance a
traveler infected with the virus touches down
in an Asian city.
How quickly any case is detected---and the
measures taken once it is---will determine
whether the virus takes hold in a region where
billions live in poverty and public health systems
are often very weak. Governments are ramping
up response plans, stepping up surveillance at
airports and considering quarantine measures.
Still, health experts in the region s less developed
countries fear any outbreak would be deadly
and hard to contain.
"This is a non-treatable disease with a very
high mortality rate. And even a country like
the United States has not been able to com-
pletely prevent it," said Yatin Mehta, a critical
care specialist at the Medanta Medicity hospital
near New Delhi. "The government is trying.
They are preparing and they are training, but
our record of disaster management has been
very poor in the past."
The virus requires close contact with body
fluids to spread so health care workers and
family members caring for loved ones are most
Asia, home to 60 per cent of the world s
population, scores higher than West Africa on
most development indexes and includes emerg-
ing or developed countries like Singapore,
Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. But countries
like India, China, the Philippines and Indonesia
have vast numbers of poor, many of whom
live in crowded slums, and underfunded health
The Philippine government estimates there
are up to 1,700 Filipino workers in Liberia,
Sierra Leone and Guinea, plus more than 100
peacekeeping troops in Liberia. The Department
of Health is suggesting a 21-day quarantine
period before its citizens leave those three
countries, but doesn t know how it will pay
for that, said spokesman Lyndon Lee Suy.
"The DOH is doing its part, but it is down-
stream, it is on the receiving end," said Dr
Antony Leachon, president of the Philippine
College of Physicians. "What is important is
that Ebola shouldn t be able to enter. Since we
have 10 million migrant workers, we have prob-
lems containing that."
Indonesia has put 100 hospitals that have
experience of treating patients suffering from
bird flu on standby for Ebola, said Tjandra
Yoga Aditama, head of the Health Ministry s
research and development board.
The only way of ensuring that the virus
doesn t spread into a country is enforced quar-
antine for people coming from countries with
an outbreak or---even more effective---a total
travel ban. But those measures would mean
that doctors and other experts trying to beat
the virus at its source in West Africa would
be less willing or unable to help, making the
Airports in Asia have stepped up their defens-
es: screening passengers who have travelled
from affected countries, taking any with high
temperature for observation and trying to keep
contact them with for 21 days---the incubation
period. Even assuming these measures are car-
ried out effectively, people can and do lie about
their travel history, and common drugs like
Paracetamol are effective in reducing fever.
Authorities in China say 8,672 people have
entered southern Guangdong province from
Ebola-ridden areas since August 23.
There are more than 160 direct flights per
month from Africa to the region s capital,
Guangzhou, a reflection of the booming eco-
nomic ties between China and Africa. All
arrivals are subject to medical observation,
which, according to guidelines from the Health
Ministry, involves medical staff visiting or
calling them morning and evening for 21 days
to ask them about their temperature. People
whose temperature is above normal should
be immediately quarantined for three weeks.
In Hong Kong, around 15 passengers a day
arrive from the affected region, chief port
health officer Dr Edwin Tsui Lok-kin said.
Prior to the Ebola outbreak, Singapore had an
average of about 30 people arriving a month
collectively from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra
Leone, the government says.
Dale Fisher, the head of the infectious dis-
eases division at the Singapore National Uni-
versity Hospital, said governments in the region
should be educating health workers about the
disease and the need to ask anyone presenting
with a fever at a medical facility about their
"Asia is very diverse in its capacity, and
there are some countries with people that
travel a lot that may not have the best infra-
structure and are at greater risk," said Fisher,
who has twice been to Liberia to assist in the
WHO s response. "If an index case arrived
back in a large Asian city and they were to sit
in an open ward vomiting, then you would
have a pretty big job on your hands."
He said that an outbreak could be brought
under control with quick isolation and effective
tracing of anyone who might have been in
contact with the patient, citing the example
of Nigeria, African s most populous country.
It was declared Ebola free after confirming 19
cases, seven of them fatal.
Asian health systems and workers have
experience in countering infectious diseases,
including severe acute respiratory syndrome,
or SARS, which first appeared in Hong Kong
in 2003, infecting more than 8,000 people
and killing about 800. The region grappled a
highly pathogenic strain of bird flu around the
same time that killed about 800 people in 12
countries, and new strains continue to crop
up.Sujatha Rao, a former Indian health secretary,
said India s health system kicked into overdrive
when confronted with a health crisis, as was
seen during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.
Asked whether the country was prepared
for Ebola, she added: "We are not ready. But
that said, there is only so much preparation
that any country can do."
UNITED NATIONS---The United States
ambassador to the United Nations is on her
way to visit all three of the West African
countries hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak,
amid rising calls for travel restrictions back
home in the US.
Samantha Power will visit Liberia, Sierra
Leone and Guinea "to draw attention to the
need for increased support for the
international response," said a statement
released by the US mission. She will be a
rare high-profile presence on the ground in a
crisis that has struggled at times to attract
donations, health workers and even celebrity
advocacy. A spokesman said Power had
already departed and was set to land in the
capital of Guinea, Conakry, on Sunday.
Earlier, the ambassador tweeted a photo of
herself with Guinea's ambassador to the
The United Nations has repeatedly called
for a greater international response to the
worst-ever outbreak of the deadly disease,
which has killed more than 4,900 people.
The UN mission to counter Ebola is the
first time the world body has set up such an
effort in response to a public health crisis.
US ambassador to visit Ebola-ravaged West Africa
CAIRO---An Egyptian court on Sunday
convicted 23 activists of staging an illegal
demonstration, sentencing them each to
three years in jail in the latest crackdown
by authorities on the secular pro-democ-
racy movement behind the 2011 uprising
against longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.
The Cairo court also fined the defen-
dants, who include at least seven women,
£10,000 (about US$1,400) each and
ordered that they be placed under police
surveillance after they serve their sen-
The case is rooted in a peaceful demon-
stration the defendants had allegedly par-
ticipated in last June near the presidential
palace in Cairo s Heliopolis suburb. The
demonstration was called to protest a law
adopted late last year severely restricting
the right to stage street protests.
The defendants have also faced other
charges, including damaging public prop-
erty and assaulting policemen.
The conviction of the 23 is the latest in
a government crackdown against secular
pro-democracy activists, many of whom
were iconic figures of the 2011 uprising
that forced Mubarak to step down in Feb-
A parallel crackdown has meanwhile
killed hundreds of Islamists and jailed
thousands since July last year. (AP)
Egyptian court jails 23 activists for protesting
Ebola alarm in Asia
Medical workers wearing protective suits, handle a protective stretcher as they conduct a
training exercise on dealing with suspected Ebola cases at a hospital in Guangzhou in south
China's Guangdong province. AP PHOTO
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