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Mass Ebola outbreak ‘is unlikely’

Shan Juan
Updated: Nov 3,2014 6:51 AM     China Daily

Nation continues to assist fight against deadly virus in West Africa.

China’s risk of a mass Ebola outbreak is quite slim, given the nation’s capacity for epidemic detection and control, said a high-ranking public health official.

“The epidemic monitoring and response capacity in the country, particularly the coordination by all stakeholders such as hospitals, public health institutions and inspection and quarantine departments, could bring Ebola well under control and stop further spreading,” Gao Fu, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told China Daily.

However, if Ebola cases continue to climb in West Africa, the chances of the disease spreading to other parts of the world, including China, increase as well, Gao said. “Pathogens know no borders and it’s just a matter of time.”

“China’s Ebola prevention efforts are going to epidemic-hit West Africa as well. If Ebola is under control in Africa, the rest of the world faces less risk,” he emphasized.

He also revealed that any Chinese infected with Ebola in West Africa would be brought back to China for treatment and care.

China’s medical teams in Africa are at relatively greater risk of Ebola exposure, he noted. “The medical assistance program is proceeding despite the epidemic.”

“They see a lot of local patients each day who might be infected with Ebola,” he said, urging they remain alert and carry out protective procedures.

So far there has been no infection among them, or any Chinese, in West Africa, he said.

To help with local Ebola control, China has dispatched more than 60 public health specialists, particularly in virus screening, and “that’s also an exercise helping our public health and medical teams better prepare for a potential Ebola outbreak in China,” he said.

“It’s a big jump for China’s epidemic control and highlights a preemptive approach,” he said.

China has not reported any Ebola cases and has no high-level biosafety lab, known as level 4, to conduct scientific research into the highly dangerous virus.

The biosafety level is a level of containment required to isolate dangerous biological agents. The highest, level 4, is for pathogens that have no treatment or vaccine, like Ebola.

Widely-known viruses including HIV, SARS, rabies and yellow fever are biosafety level 3.

According to the CDC’s Gao, China is constructing a level 4 lab in Wuhan, led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in collaboration with France, which is scheduled to open early next year.

“China CDC is planning to build one as well,” he revealed.

As such a vast nation, “one or two biosafety level 4 labs are far from enough given the varied pathogen risks we face,” he added.

To contain the virus, China’s top priority is to detect Ebola sufferers at border checks to cut secondary infection within the country, he said.

If frontline efforts fail, “the community-level medical institutions throughout the country are required to plug the loophole by detecting, reporting and isolating those infected to curb the spread of the virus,” he said.

To contain all viruses, including Ebola, timely quarantine of suspected cases or sufferers and tracing their close contacts for isolated observation is pivotal, he added.

For confirmed patients, “standard treatment and procedures should be given in line with clinical guidelines issued by the health authority,” he said.

“Previous experience fighting epidemics like SARS, H1N1 and human bird flu has given China the capacity for outbreak response in both epidemic control and individual clinical treatment,” he said.

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