Ebola screening at NZ airports

SIOBHAN DOWNES
Last updated 09:01 11/08/2014

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Screening measures have been introduced in New Zealand airports in a bid to stop the deadly Ebola virus reaching here.

The Ministry of Health said anyone who in the past three weeks has visited West African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak would be screened for symptoms of the disease.

People arriving from those areas would also be given information about the symptoms of Ebola and how to seek help in New Zealand if they became unwell.

Deputy director of public health Dr Fran McGrath said the changes, which took effect yesterday, were in line with screening measures in Australia.

But unlike Australia, New Zealand had no direct flights from Africa, so it was an additional precaution, she said.

In the "very unlikely" event there was a case of Ebola in New Zealand, it was expected it would be an isolated case.

New Zealand's health sector was familiar with controlling and managing infectious disease cases, and if there was a suspected case of Ebola the person would be promptly treated in hospital isolation.

Isolation facilities and existing infection control protocols in New Zealand hospitals were adequate for treatment, McGrath said.

Samples would be sent to a high security reference laboratory overseas for testing.

Confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola have been reported in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

The World Health Organisation has declared the spread of the virus an international health emergency, and on Friday reported a death toll had reached 961.

Although deadly, the virus is not as infectious as the flu or measles - it requires contact with infected bodily fluids.

While there are no Ebola-related travel restrictions for those wishing to visit affected countries, the Ministry of Health said New Zealanders should "carefully consider" the need to travel there.

Any traveller who felt unwell after returning home was advised to call Healthline on 0800 611-116 or phone their GP or hospital prior to visiting them.

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