Airport health check

  • Ebola prevention efforts are limited to paper

Aug 18, 2014-

With the number of deaths caused by the Ebola virus already having crossed 1,000, the World Health Organisation has said that the outbreak is being “vastly underestimated” and that “extraordinary measures” are needed to stop its spread.

In its statement issued on Thursday, the health body said that its staff had seen evidence that the numbers of reported cases and deaths do not reflect the scale of the crisis.

What makes Ebola stand out in particular amongst many other deadly diseases and epidemics is the ease with which it can be transmitted—direct contact with the body fluids of an infected person—and the fact that there is no cure or vaccine to prevent it.

And while WHO says that it is “coordinating a massive scaling up of the international response”, there is danger that the virus could reach countries which have not been affected. In this regard, according to WHO, the risk of its transmission during air travel is low—but it cannot be ruled out.

At its airports, Pakistan has in place a system for incoming travellers to fill out health cards and provide information about what health risks they may have been exposed to. There also exist regulatory provisions for quarantines.

But like much else here, this is only on paper. In actual practice, these health cards are not checked at all, and can often be found littering the hall preceding the immigration counters.

People who do provide the required information have, in effect, merely wasted their time; many just hand in blank sheets to the health desks that ought to be properly scanning health documents and be in communication with the staff at the immigration counters.

While there is no need to be alarmist, should not a case be made for the system to be reinstituted and put to use? It would take very little to ensure that we do not add another serious illness to the country’s already long list of health challenges.

Published: 19-08-2014 09:24

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