29 July 2014

West Africa: KQ, Ministry Assure Travellers Amid Ebola in West Africa

Photo: Samaritan's Purse
Hospital staff respond to a suspected Ebola patient in the triage tent in Monrovia (file photo).

Nairobi — Even as Liberia shut its borders to curb the further spread of the Ebola virus and Nigeria's largest airline, Arik Air, suspended its flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone after flying a Liberian man infected with the virus into Nigeria last week, Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia and Kenya Airways have allayed fears among Kenyan travellers.

Kenya Airways which began flying into Abuja in June and inked a deal with Delta Airlines to offer connecting flight between Monrovia and Accra on Friday, told Capital FM News that it had put in place the necessary precautionary measures to safeguard its staff and passengers from the virus.

Kenya Airways Head of Medical and Occupational Health, Jane Munyi also corroborated Macharia's assurance that the ministry was screening passengers entering the country from West Africa especially those who had passed through Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

"Surveillance is carried out at JKIA for all flights from West Africa by Port Health that has this mandate," Munyi said.

As far as in-flight safety was concerned, Munyi said, it would be very difficult for the virus to spread as the virus spread only through body fluids and infected persons at that stage of infection were unlikely to travel.

"During the incubation period of between a day to 21 days the infected person is well enough to travel and cannot transmit infection. When the symptoms set in the person is often too sick to travel and soon becomes bedridden. Hence the chances of being infected on board have been estimated to be minimal," she assured.

Unfortunately, the asymptomatic nature of the incubation period has made Ebola especially difficult to detect, easing its spread.

The World Health Organisation also cautions that, "Men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to seven weeks after recovery from illness."

Still, Munyi said, KQ staff, especially those stationed in Sierra Leone, had been trained on how the virus is spread and how to avoid infection.

"Our crew members have also been supplied and trained on the use of Universal Precaution Kits (UPKs) to ensure that they do not come into contact with body fluids while carrying out their duties," she added.

The current outbreak in West Africa is considered to be the worst yet with 500 people reported dead.

An average of six out of every 10 people infected have died but it is unclear why with no licensed vaccine or cure in circulation.

It has however been found imperative to keep those infected hydrated with symptoms including fever, sore throat, diarrhoea, kidney and liver failure and in some cases internal and external bleeding.

Ebola is believed to be spread to humans through close contact with the bodily fluids of chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines.

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