Health ministry issues Ebola virus advisory


ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has sent an advisory to the Islamabad capital territory (ICT) administration, the Capital Development Authority and the chief secretaries of all provinces to take precautionary measures against the Ebola disease. In the advisory, the ministry said in the recent past West Africa (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) had experienced the outbreak of the disease where 1,378 cases had been reported with 746 deaths and fatality rate of up to 90 per cent.

The ministry warned that the Ebola virus might travel to Pakistan due to the frequent movement of people to the African countries in connection with trade and transit, etc. “Therefore, the risk of importation of the disease calls for immediate precautionary measures.”

It said Ebola was a severe acute viral illness often characterised by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscles pain, headache and sore throat.

This followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rashes, impaired kidney and liver functioning. In some cases, both internal and external bleeding also starts.

The disease spreads through physical contacts with patients

In the absence of vaccination and effective treatment, raising awareness about the risk factors and the protective measures are the only way to reduce the chances of its spread.

The risk of human-to-human transmission arises from direct or close contact with the infected persons, particularly with their body fluids.

“Close physical contacts with Ebola patients should be avoided. Gloves and appropriate personal protective gear should be worn while taking care of the Ebola patients at home,” added the advisory.

“Regular hand washing is required after visiting Ebola patients in hospital or taking care of them at home.”

It said in addition to the standard precautions, healthcare workers looking after the patients with suspected or confirmed Ebola virus should apply infection control measures to avoid any exposure to the patient’s blood and body fluids.

Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) Vice Chancellor Prof Javed Akram told Dawn that Ebola was a viral disease and the virus spread because of a close contact, sexual transmission, through saliva and blood transfusion.

“The Ebola and HIV have lots of similarities but the former is more dangerous. The incubation period of HIV is almost 10 years whereas Ebola develops into a full blown disease in just a week and attacks the nervous system. The disease is endemic in West Africa,” he said.

In reply to a question, Dr Akram said the virus was not endemic in Pakistan so people coming from West Africa should be screened at airports.