Ebola risk in Europe 'extremely low'

30.07.14 @ 19:17

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
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BRUSSELS - The risk of Ebola reaching the EU is “extremely low” but the possibility cannot be ruled out entirely, EU experts say.

  • The EU's mobile laboratory in Gueckedou working on samples from patients to be tested for the presence of Ebola Virus. (Photo: European Commission)

An EU official told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (30 July) any infected person arriving in the EU would be contained and treated.

“The risk that this disease arrives in Europe is extremely low,” he said.

The official noted Belgium and France have direct flights to Guinea, where the deadly virus was first reported in late March.

A suspected Ebola case in Valencia, Spain was discarded after a medical examination confirmed it was something else.

The Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) told this website an infected person could arrive in Europe carrying the disease since the typical incubation period can last up to three weeks after exposure.

It said the recent surge in the number of new cases over the past few weeks increases the likelihood of visitors and travellers coming into contact with infected people.

“We cannot exclude to see a few imported cases in Europe,” notes the centre.

But the contact added by email: “Given the nature of the disease, local transmission and spread of Ebola in Europe seems unlikely at this point."

Transmission requires direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of dead or living infected persons or animals.

The European Commission, for its part, sent in experts, a mobile laboratory unit, and helped finance on-the-ground operations conducted by the World Health Organisation, Doctors without Borders, and Federation of the Red Cross.

But the Brussels executive is finding it difficult to convince NGOs to help with logistics and management due in part to summer holidays, regional politics in the affected zones, and social stigmas.

“The big problem is to find partners who are competent and willing to work in this dangerous environment,” said the EU official.

Around €2 million in EU funds has been set aside to finance the logistic operations but has yet to find any takers.

Meanwhile, aid organisations and health workers in the affected areas are reportedly being chased away from some of the more remote villages.

“We are talking about a zone in Africa that is very very very traditional. The virus couldn’t have chosen better,” noted the contact.

The Guinea-based outbreak has since spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

As of 23 July 2014, the cumulative number of cases reported in the three countries was 1201, of which 672 people have died.