Keep Ebola threat at bay - Cook

New Zealand is not totally insulated against the threat of Ebola and people would be naive to think otherwise, a Southern District Health Board member says.

Speaking at the monthly board meeting yesterday, Neville Cook said his main concern was around the return protocols for people from Southland and Otago who volunteered their skills in West Africa in the fight against the deadly virus.

He was aware of three southern groups planning to send people to West Africa.

"I think we'd be naive if we think that New Zealand's totally insulated against Ebola."

Strong protocols needed to be in place to deal with risks associated with people returning from those affected countries, he said.

The DHB has plans in place to deal with Ebola even though it maintains the risk of a case arriving in New Zealand remains low.

In a report to the meeting, chief medical officer David Tulloch said southern patients suspected of having Ebola could be stabilised at Dunedin Hospital before being moved to the main South Island treatment centre in Christchurch.

The report reinforced that references to a global crisis were aimed at mobilising resources to West Africa rather than pointing to a rapid spread of the infection through the developed world.

The risk of an Ebola case arriving in New Zealand remains low and the possibility of an outbreak in New Zealand is extremely remote, the report said.

". . . the focus in our district is on border control, clinical assessment and stabilisation if necessary, and transfer to Christchurch as soon as practical."

However, if there was a need for stabilisation before transfer, this would occur at Dunedin Hospital.

"This approach will ensure optimum management of any case that presents, minimise the infection risk locally and prevent prolonged disruption of healthcare provision in Dunedin Hospital. Road transport of cases will be via St John," the report said.


8399 confirmed, probable or suspected cases. Of those, there have been 4033 deaths.

Seven countries have reported cases – Guinea, (1350 cases, 778 deaths), Liberia (4076 cases, 2316 deaths), Nigeria (20 cases, 8 deaths), Senegal (1 case, no deaths) Sierra Leone (2950 cases, 930 deaths), Spain (1 case, no deaths) and the US (1 case, 1 death).

How it spreads Ebola is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (such as bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.


The Southland Times