Ill African traveller put in isolation at hospital

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 20/08/2014

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A seriously ill African woman is in isolation at Wellington Hospital after immigration officials picked her up at Wellington Airport.

The woman, understood to be from the Democratic Republic of Congo, initially came to the attention of officials because of a problem with her travel documentation after arriving from Australia on Monday night. It was also noticed that she was "quite sick".

Health officials quickly ruled out Ebola, the deadly virus sweeping through West Africa, because the woman had not travelled to any infected countries, Ministry of Health director of public health Darren Hunt said.

However, she was put in isolation with suspected tuberculosis.

"It is very rare for passengers to need medical isolation on arrival," Hunt said.

The incident comes as the Government announces expanded powers for health officials to deal with Ebola in the unlikely event that it should reach New Zealand.

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Ebola symptoms include fever, vomiting, aching muscles, intense weakness and, in some cases, bleeding from the eyes and mouth. The disease can be spread through bodily fluids, including sweat, blood and vomit, and victims can remain infectious even after death.

Western Africa is in the grip of the worst Ebola outbreak in history, with the latest World Health Organisation figures showing it has killed at least 1145 people, more than half the total number infected. It has spread to four countries in West Africa, including the continent's most populous nation, Nigeria.

In the latest response to the outbreak, Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew said yesterday that, by the end of the month, health officials would be able to hold ships and planes containing people suspected of Ebola infections.

On August 10 the ministry announced it would be screening for Ebola at all international airports and seaports. Hunt said that since then six unwell people arriving here had been screened, but there had been no suspected cases.

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- The Dominion Post

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