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East China likely to handle Ebola transfer cases

Shan Juan and Wang Xiaodong
Updated: Nov 4,2014 7:42 AM     China Daily

Free medical supplies from China are unloaded at Felix Houphouet Boigny Airport in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, on Oct 31. The supplies are part of China’s relief effort to Ebola-hit countries.[Photo/Xinhua]

Region’s medical institutions have best capacity, facilities for any Chinese patients from West Africa.

Designated medical institutions in East China will probably take care of Chinese Ebola patients transferred from West Africa, given their relatively high capacity in public health and medical treatment, said a senior emergency response official.

Wang Wenjie, deputy director of the emergency response department of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, spoke to China Daily on the sidelines of an Ebola control news conference on Nov 3.

Currently, there are more than 8,500 Chinese citizens, mostly staff workers at Chinese businesses and health personnel, in Ebola-hit West African countries, and none to date have been found to have contracted the deadly disease, he said.

“We have a daily reporting rule to inform the commission of the latest health condition among the Chinese citizens in West Africa, and in the meantime they are informed of self-protection tips against the virus,” he said.

China has been combating Ebola outbreaks together with affected West Africa nations and international societies, Wang emphasized.

The Chinese government has so far offered four rounds of emergency humanitarian relief totaling 750 million yuan ($122.6 million) to the hardest-hit African countries and to international organizations fighting Ebola, said Fang Aiqing, vice-minister of commerce.

Meanwhile, 224 Chinese medical workers have been dispatched to help with local Ebola control, and more will be sent, said Wang Wenjie.

Recognizing the Ebola risk the nation faces, Wang expressed confidence, citing great preparedness and past experience in combating major epidemics like SARS and H1N1.

Cui Li, vice-minister of health, advised health authorities across China at the weekend to be well prepared to treat Chinese who might be infected with the deadly Ebola virus in the future, according to a statement released by the commission on Monday.

She said authorities must intensify efforts to prevent the virus from spreading to China.

Although no Ebola infection has been reported in China and no Chinese citizens overseas have been reported to have contracted Ebola yet, China faces an increasing risk of the virus spreading, she said.

“The Ebola epidemic is unlikely to be eradicated in the near future, and its development has become a threat to China’s public health security,” she said.

Ebola had caused more than 4,900 deaths in the three worst-hit West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as of Friday, and confirmed infection cases have been identified in the United States and Europe, according to the World Health Organization.

Cui called for health authorities at various levels to intensify inspection at ports of international arrival, strengthen the monitoring and report system for early detection and response, and better cooperate with their international counterparts in tackling the disease.

She urged intensified management of people coming from Ebola-hit countries for the upcoming 2014 APEC Economic Leaders’ Week, to be held in Beijing from Wednesday to Nov 11, to prevent the disease from entering China.

HK’S SUCCESS AGAINST SARS OFFERS USEFUL LESSONS

The SARS outbreak of 2003 put Hong Kong on the front line of a global health crisis-and the city’s ultimately successful war on the virus offers lessons for those now battling Ebola.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome infected 1,800 people and claimed 299 lives in Hong Kong. Panic spread, emptying usually busy streets and causing the property market to dive.

But swift moves to quarantine at-risk residents brought the outbreak under control. It transformed long-term attitudes about disease and streamlined the city’s alert and response systems.

Eleven years later, the legacy of SARS can still be seen every day in Hong Kong. Many residents don surgical masks at the first signs of a common cold. Disinfectant dispensers are dotted around buildings, and signs next to elevator buttons boast of hourly sterilization.

“All this came about after SARS,” said Nelson Lee, head of infectious diseases at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“At the time of SARS, Hong Kong had very few isolation facilities-and, in general, the medical profession was not aware of the importance of infectious diseases. We have come a long way.”

Hong Kong hospitals now feature emergency isolation rooms, while travelers must pass through temperature scanners at the borders.

Experts say the experience of dealing with these viruses puts Asia in a generally good position should it face an outbreak of Ebola.

Quarantine drills have been held from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong to Singapore and the Philippines, while many Asian countries have tightened airport screening processes.

Citizens of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will need a visa to enter Singapore, the city-state’s health ministry said on Nov 3.

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