NZ Ministry of Health: Ebola – Answering your questions on Ebola

Dr Darren Hunt, Director of Public Health, Ministry of Health and Professor John Crump, Centre for International Health, University of Otago describe what Ebola is, the extremely low risk of Ebola arriving and spreading in New Zealand, and what we are doing to keep that risk low.

[Dr. Darren Hunt]
Ebola is a serious disease caused by a virus.

The current outbreak in West Africa is the largest we’ve ever seen. However ebola isn’t easy to catch. It’s transmitted through body fluids – you can’t get it through the air like flu and measles, and you can’t catch it just by sitting next to an infected person.

Also there are very few people travelling between here and those affected countries and we don’t have any direct flights from New Zealand to those countries.

[Professor John Crump]
In West Africa in the affected countries we’re seeing transmission occurring by close contact
because the relatively fragile health systems are not able to implement the infection control measures necessary to prevent transmission within health settings to health care workers.

Furthermore the relatives of patients are often looking after them at home where it’s not possible to put in place the measures to prevent transmission easily.

[Dr. Darren Hunt]
It’s extremely unlikely that New Zealand would see a case of ebola. It’s also extremely unlikely if we did see a case that it would spread further here.

[Professor John Crump]
If someone were to arrive in New Zealand suspected to have the ebola virus disease, New Zealand has the infection control systems in place to be able to safely deal with the patient, to protect healthcare workers and others.

We’ve known about ebola virus disease for 40 years almost and have figured out how to successfully manage it in a hospital setting using infection control practices that are routinely used for other much more common infections in New Zealand.

[Dr. Darren Hunt]
New Zealand’s healthcare system is well-prepared to deal with infectious diseases such as ebola.

In addition at the moment travellers coming from ebola-affected countries are being asked about their health and given information on how they should seek medical advice if they become unwell. Of course the Ministry continues to monitor the situation and provide up-to-date information for everybody. The latest information can be found on our ebola web page.

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