460 Irish citizens are living in countries worst hit by virus
AROUND 460 Irish people are living and working in countries worst hit by the Ebola virus outbreak and have registered with foreign affairs authorities, it was confirmed yesterday.
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said that it is "ensuring that Irish citizens and staff in the affected countries are informed of the situation as it emerges and are aware of the precautions necessary to best ensure their health and safety."
He said: "We have 59 citizens registered in Sierra Leone and Liberia. There are no citizens registered in Guinea. Numbers have remained constant in recent weeks. None of the most affected areas are frequented by large numbers of Irish visitors.
"In Nigeria, there are a further 401 citizens registered with the Irish Embassy in Abuja, of which 165 are based in Lagos, as well as three citizens in Senegal," he added.
Ireland is among a small number of countries with an embassy in Sierra Leone and Irish citizens are encouraged to register with the embassy and keep them abreast of their travel plans.
Asked what would happen in the event of an Irish person becoming infected with Ebola, he said the department has been "working with colleagues in other departments and agencies and our EU and international partners to put in place detailed contingency plans, including a co-ordinated response to repatriation."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said that any decision to repatriate an Irish national would be based on a clinical assessment of the patient.
This would include their fitness to travel and the impact of any proposed travel on their condition.
There would also have to be an assessment of the public risk they could pose to others.
It is not possible to catch Ebola through social contact or by travelling on a plane with someone who is infected, without direct contact with the blood or body fluids of the infected person.
Cabin crew suspecting a sick passenger has an infectious disease, as well as ground staff receiving the passenger at the destination, would follow the International Air Transport Association guidelines for suspected communicable disease.