WHO Recognizes Seriousness of Ebola in Africa, But Sees No Need to Limit Travel

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The World Health Organization in a report published Friday acknowledged that the deadly Ebola virus outbreak is an emergency situation of international importance but downplayed the need to restrict or limit international travel.

“The risk of a tourist or businessman/woman becoming infected with Ebola virus during a visit to the affected areas and developing disease after returning is extremely low, even if the visit included travel to the local areas from which primary cases have been reported,” WHO said in a report.

WHO specified that transmission of the deadly disease “requires direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected living or dead persons or animal, all unlikely exposures for the average traveler.”

“Travel restrictions, closure of borders at points of entry are not recommended,” the organization said.

Ebola is spread with the exchange of blood or bodily fluids and its symptoms include fever, weakness, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, or bleeding. The WHO recommends seeking medical attention if such symptoms are exhibited within two to 21 days after travels to places with reported cases of the disease.

Ebola outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90 percent

There is no licensed treatment or vaccine for the Ebola virus. Medics use rehydration fluid and antibiotics to fight infections. Some groups have called for new drugs to be rolled out in Africa after two US aid workers infected with the virus responded positively to an experimental treatment known as Zmapp.

This week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) modified its clinical hold status on Canadian Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation’s experimental Ebola treatment to enable its potential use in humans infected with the virus. However, the drug needs to be tested on volunteers first. Other healthcare specialists and research centers, including the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), say Ebola treatments should not be used on humans and that the drugs are unsafe.

More than 930 people have died in the worst Ebola outbreak in history and the first to occur in West Africa. It began in southern Guinea in February and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Several cases have also been reported in Nigeria.

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