Screening at Kenya’s border points have been upgraded in an attempt to prevent and contain the spread of Ebola, the virus that has killed more than 700 people this year in Guinea, Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The Kenya National Disaster Operations Centre, in a tweet posted on Wednesday, said port health officers are on standby and are vigilant as the virus spreads in West African countries.
Ebola is a highly contagious disease that causes severe fever, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, continual bleeding and ultimately organ failure. The virus is spread mainly through body fluids, including sweat and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the disease is fatal in up to 90 per cent of cases.
There is no vaccine against the Ebola virus so the main safety measure used against its spread is to isolate a person showing symptoms.
FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS UNDER REVIEW
The risk of travelers contracting Ebola is considered to be low as it requires direct contact with body fluids or secretions such as urine,
blood, sweat or saliva to spread the virus. Health workers and family members who may come into direct contact with body fluids of patients suffering from Ebola are at the highest risk of being infected.
The spread of Ebola is yet to be declared an epidemic and no travel bans to the affected countries have as yet been recommended but flight restrictions aimed at containing outbreaks are being considered.
KENYA AIRWAYS STATEMENT ON EBOLA VIRUS
Kenya Airways flies 44 times a week to 10 West African cities but says that its flights from West Africa are safe. The national carrier released a statement on the measures it is taking regarding its scheduled flights to and from the regions currently affected the Ebola virus.
The statement reads:
Arising from the unfortunate Ebola outbreak in parts of West Africa, we wish to update that, Kenya Airways has taken several precautionary measures, as follows:
- We have taken proactive measures to educate all Kenya Airways’ staff, and especially those on the ground in Sierra Leone, on Ebola, how it is transmitted and how to keep safe.
- 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.
- Kenya Airways is represented in the National Aviation Pandemic Preparedness Committee (through steering committee of CAPSCA that is chaired by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority). This enables us access information real time on the country position during such situations.
- We continuously monitor updates from World Health Organisation and the International Air Transport Association on the disease, its spread and for guidelines on recommended actions.
- Additionally, surveillance is carried out at JKIA for all flights from West Africa by Port Health Unit that has this mandate.
It is also important to note that Ebola is transmitted by contact with body fluids of an ailing patient. However, during the incubation period (1- 21 days), the infected person is well enough to travel and cannot transmit infection. When the symptoms set in, after this period, the person is too sick to travel and soon becomes bedridden. Hence the chances of being infected on board have been estimated to be minimal.
So far Ebola has not been declared an epidemic/pandemic. No travel bans or advisory have been given or recommended.