A US team has visited the Dhaka international airport to check Bangladesh’s preparations to prevent the fatal Ebola virus from entering the country.
Airport officials told bdnews24.com that the team comprised US embassy officials and experts of the US Centre for Disease Control working in Bangladesh.
Prof Be-Nazir Ahmed, director of Bangladesh’s Centre for Disease Control who accompanied the team on Wednesday, confirmed to bdnews24.com their enquiries regarding airport arrangements.
The US team’s visit was prompted by the concern of the authorities there about the spread of the deadly virus, especially after it slipped into the US despite tough health guidelines.
The first reported case of Ebola in a Texas health worker has raised questions about how the US medical guidelines aimed at preventing Ebola spread were breached.
The health worker contracted the virus while treating a Liberian, who died of the disease in Dallas last week.
“It made them (US authorities) worry,” Prof Ahmed said, “They think if the virus can find a place in the US, then it can spread to anywhere in the world.
“They have their citizens in Bangladesh, and their concerns are valid. But we showed them our preparations at the airport. They are happy to see our arrangements,” he said.
The current Ebola outbreak that WHO termed an international health emergency is the worst outbreak on record and has killed 4,447 people so far, mostly in West Africa’s Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
The first case was reported in Guinea in March.
But travel restrictions on infected people and the absence of direct air links with the affected countries made the chances of the deadly virus reaching Bangladesh “a remote possibility”.
Concerns, however, mounted after recent media report saying six people, who came back from Liberia, walked through the airport without any screening.
Prof Ahmed said the men had been traced and were found to be healthy.
They had returned to Bangladesh from Liberia by travelling through Morocco and Algeria, in the absence of any direct flight from Liberia to Bangladesh.
“Almost all countries have suspended international flights to Liberia after the outbreak,” he said. “They left Liberia by road and took a flight to Dhaka from Algeria”.
“They said their temperature had been measured at the airport,” he said.
When WHO issued an international Ebola alert in August, the UN agency suggested that the affected states conduct “exit screening” of all persons at international airports, seaports, and major land crossings, for unexplained febrile illness consistent with potential Ebola infection.
It also advised that any person with an illness consistent with Ebola “should not be allowed to travel unless the travel is part of an appropriate medical evacuation”.
It has also asked countries where the virus had not spread not to impose any “general ban on international travel or trade”
“The unaffected countries like Bangladesh have not been recommended to conduct airport screening,” Prof Ahmed said. “Still, we are monitoring all ports.”
Ebola desks at ports collect phone numbers of people who travelled from affected countries and also give them a government number to contact if they fall ill, mostly fever, within 21 days of their return.
“So far we found 166 people mostly from Nigeria where the infection rate is much lower than the other three West African’s countries and all of them were monitored”.
“We called them after two to three days and asked them whether they are okay,” he said.
Health Minister Mohammed Nasim told journalists on Wednesday that they would buy a thermal scanner to get an automatic record of the arriving passengers’ body temperature.
It will be like a narrow archway through which passengers will pass.
The airport is currently checking temperatures with a hand-held thermal scanner capable of measuring temperature without touching the body.
“A patient with fever would be taken to an isolated room equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) at the airport and asked some questions.
“We have created what we call ‘case definition’ to identify a suspect patient.
“We’ll look into his travel background whether he travelled from the affected countries and the history of coming in touch with any patients.
“If we think the person is an Ebola suspect, we’ll start taking the next measures like sending him to our specially designated hospital and taking samples for testing,” he said.
WHO on Tuesday projected that there could be between 5,000 and 10,000 new cases a week in early December as the Ebola epidemic is still spreading in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The UN agency says cases are under-reported in the three hardest-hit countries.
The WHO multiplies numbers from Guinea by 1.5, from Sierra Leone by two, and from Liberia by 2.5 to get a more accurate picture.
WHO blamed weak health systems in the currently affected countries, lacking in human, financial and material resources at the time of categorising Ebola as an international emergency.
Source: Bd news24