The World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a statement today (7 August 2014) and subsequently issued guidelines on the present ebola outbreak in West Africa.
The ebola outbreak is currently limited to four countries in Africa, i.e. Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria. Travel restrictions have not been placed on these countries, but travellers should take care when travelling to them. It is important that people with symptoms do not travel. Comprehensive temperature scanning is being carried out in the international airports of these countries as well as at all border checkpoints where possible. The disease is transmitted through contact, i.e. contact transmission, not air-borne transmission. Close and long-term contact with patients poses the greatest risk, and those most at risk of infection are the close relatives of the patients or healthcare workers involved in their care. As regards airline crew flying to these four countries, the following may be read in the statement from the WHO:
- States should ensure that appropriate medical care is available for the crews and staff of airlines operating in the country and work with the airlines to facilitate and harmonise communications and management regarding symptomatic passengers under the IHR (2005), mechanisms for contact tracing if required and the use of passenger locator records where appropriate.
Nothing further is stated as regards contact between crews and passengers, although it would be best if one of the lavatories were reserved for crewmembers in the aircraft flying to these four countries. As regards other countries in Africa as well as any other country, it is a good idea to increase hygiene and use disinfectants on hands after all contacts outside the cockpit. In the event of strong suspicion that an infected person is on board, the use of disposable gloves and face masks may be added.
Author: Hannes Petersen, FÍA Physician