Vietnam beefs up travel surveillance against Ebola

By Thanh Nien Staff, Thanh Nien News

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Arrivals at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi wait as officials check their health declaration amid Ebola scare. Photo: Duong Ngoc Arrivals at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi wait as officials check their health declaration amid Ebola scare. Photo: Duong Ngoc

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Vietnam has started screening overseas arrivals for Ebola virus and considered limiting people coming from infected countries in Africa, officials said at a Saturday meeting.
“It’s totally possible” that the disease can spread to Vietnam through foreign visitors or Vietnamese workers and students coming from Africa, a health ministry representative said at an urgent meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
Nguyen Van Sau, director of Ho Chi Minh City Center for International Epidemic Control, said all four body temperature measuring machines at Tan Son Nhat International Airport are in action around the clock to check people coming from overseas.
“We will be on watch 24/7, and focus more on people flying from infected areas. Any person suspected [of catching the disease] will be quarantined for further examination,” Sau said.
He said people coming from infected areas in the coming days would have to fill out a medical declaration form.
Dr Nguyen Huu Hung, deputy director of the HCMC health department, said two leading pediatrics facilities – Children’s Hospitals No.1 and 2 together with the Hospital for Tropical Diseases have been tasked with handling suspected cases.
Vu The Phiet, director of Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, said the airport has required medical declaration from arrivals from Ebola-struck areas since Thursday.
Hanoi customs officials have also beefed up surveillance against the smuggling of tropical animals.
Vietnam has not reported any case of Ebola, which is transmitted by direct contact through blood, body fluids, tissue and breast milk of infected animals or people and has killed around 1,000 people among some 2,500 infected in Africa.
The fatality rate has been up to 90 percent and the World Health Organization has called hemorrhagic fever one of the world’s most virulent diseases.
No cure or vaccine is available although researches are on the rush.
In Vietnam, two laboratories at the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology in Hanoi and the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City will be in charge of examining suspected individuals.
The foreign ministry has called for a halt of trips to outbreak areas, saying it will ask Vietnam’s diplomatic missions in four most infected countries -- Uganda, Congo, Sudan and Gabon --  to consider withdrawing staffs.
The ministry said it would isolate migrants from those countries and freeze their travel if necessary.
News of Thailand monitoring 21 tourists from West Africa has worried many local travel agents, who said Thai tours are in season and a large number of Vietnamese travelers are in Thailand.
Viet Huong, a representative of leading tourism firm Vietravel, said the company has not received a warning over Ebola outbreak in Thailand.
After being advised by tourism authorities, “we’ve completely suspended tours to Africa,” Huong said.
She said the company has discussed with its insurance partner to include Ebola infections into insured situations.
Travel companies said once Thailand announces Ebola infections, they still suspend tours over there no matter how much the damage would be.
The health ministry on Saturday issued a diagnosis and treatment regimen which said symptoms including acute fever, headache, muscular pains, vomiting, diarrhea, stomachache and conjunctivitis will manifest up to 21 days after infection.
Rashes are likely to develop in the first week, followed by bleeding and the discharge of black feces, the ministry said.
Patients will receive protective measures to reduce temperature, contain diarrhea, loss of water, blood transfusion, dialysis, and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) which is a technique to provide cardiac and respiratory support oxygen.
Vietnam is not yet equipped with labs that are capable of ascertaining the cause of each case of dangerous infections like Ebola.
The country is seeking technical support from the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
City/provincial governments should chalk out their own preventive measures, the health ministry officials said.

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