News Health

Sunday 21 September 2014

Ireland ‘prepared’ for Ebola outbreak as disease ravages western Africa

Published 31/07/2014 | 10:44

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IRELAND is ‘prepared’ for an Ebola outbreak, the disease which is spreading rapidly in western Africa.

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The disease has no known cure, and only one in ten people who contract the disease survive.

However the HSE’s head of Health Protection Surveillance Centre, Dr Darina O’Flanagan, said the risk of the disease spreading here was low.

Speaking to Pat Kenny on Newstalk, she said:

“We’ve been preparing for the possibility for a long time. The risk is very low, but because it’s a very dangerous pathogen we’re ready.”

“There’s an isolation unit in the Mater to deal with it.”

There are 12 beds in the Mater high security unit.

However Dr O’Flanagan said that due to how the infection spreads, it poses a relatively low risk in western countries.

“This virus is not highly infectious like measles or influenza where people can be infected before they show symptoms

“This virus needs direct contact with bodily fluids of the victims.”

She said that the reason the infection was spreading so rapidly in Africa was due to burial traditions – where family members wash the bodies of the deceased, therefore coming into contact with the virus.

“That wouldn’t happen in Ireland where we have appropriate procedures for dealing with dead bodies”, she added.

She also said there was a very low risk of it spreading on an aircraft, as it is not an airborne pathogen.

“It doesn’t spread through the air. Patients aren’t capable of spreading it while its incubating, they have to be showing symptoms.”

She said that by the time a patient is contagious, they would usually be too ill to travel.

“In reality the chances of someone getting on to a place severely ill like that is low.”

Dr O’Flanagan said that SARS and other airborne pathogens have a far greater potential to become pandemics.

“The thing about SARS was that it was transmittable through the air, which meant it had greater pandemic potential.”

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