Vietnamese doctors call for stricter Ebola prevention

By Minh Hung, Thanh Nien News

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Doctor Phan Trong Lan, director of the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City, calls for stricter screening of international arrivals to prevent Ebola from spreading to Vietnam during a teleconference held last Friday. Photo: Minh Hung Doctor Phan Trong Lan, director of the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City, calls for stricter screening of international arrivals to prevent Ebola from spreading to Vietnam during a teleconference held last Friday. Photo: Minh Hung

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Despite the fact that none of Vietnam's 83 arrivals from Ebola-infected areas tested positive for the virus since the outbreak began, doctors have called for stricter preventive measures.
Meanwhile, two Nigerian men that arrived at Tan Son Nhat International Airport on August 19 with fevers remain quarantined at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City.
According to the hospital’s director Nguyen Van Vinh Chau, the men will be held for 21 days of monitoring.
The Ebola virus causes a hemorrhagic fever that has killed more than 1,350 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia since the outbreak began in March.
The virus is spread through direct contact of bodily fluids. A person exposed to the virus can take up to 21 days to exhibit symptoms.
During a teleconference last Friday with the Ministry of Health, doctors called for better coordination between relevant agencies and funding for quarantines.
“Some passengers [arriving from West Africa] passed through three afflicted African countries before coming to Vietnam," said Phan Trong Lan, director of the Pasteur Institute in HCMC. "Health authorities should step up preventive measures to avoid an outbreak in Vietnam.” 
According to Lan, 75 percent of the 83 people arrivals were foreigners, mostly Nigerians. Only the two aforementioned men have been quarantined so far; the rest have only filled out health declaration forms.
Between three and four flights from Africa and 70-80 flights that transit in Africa land at Tan Son Nhat airport every day, which increases the risk of an Ebola outbreak, he said.
“There should be more equipment and training for relevant task forces to prevent an outbreak,” he said.
Nguyen Thanh Long, deputy health minister, instructed relevant agencies to strictly follow instructions on prevention plans designed to stop Ebola.
“Vietnam can forcibly quarantine feverish passengers who arrive at airports here if needed,” he said.
Doctors also called for funds to sterilize planes and quarantine suspicious travelers.
“We are paying for the quarantine of two Nigerian men, though no policy is in place that allows us to do so,” said Chau, the director of HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases.
Chau said health authorities should also be ready to sterilize entire planes found to have transported passengers suspected of carrying the virus.
“Was the plane that carried the two quarantined passengers sterilized? What about their seats? If they weren't sterilized, they could somehow infect others,” he said.
Nguyen Van Kinh, director of the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases, also asked the health ministry who would cover quarantine costs. 
The question went unanswered.

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