Travelers told to be Ebola-aware

Fears that the deadly Ebola virus could eventually spread to Latvia from West Africa should not be exaggerated, infectologist Jurijs Perevoščikovs told LTV's morning news show Rita Panorama on Thursday.

West African states Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Congo have all reported outbreak of the disease, resulting in more than 2,000 deaths and fears are that with the disease having a long incubation period before symptoms become apparent it could spread via international air travel to other parts of the globe.

The disease is fatal in 9 out of 10 cases.

"The greatest risk is to countries neighboring the outbreak zone and other countries in Africa. The risk of it spreading to Europe is very low but cannot completely be disregarded," Perevoščikovs said.

Latvia and other EU countries did have plans ready to introduce border checks and other measures if needed, but travelers should be aware of warning signs if visiting countries with recorded cases of Ebola, he said. 

"If there were any people who had travelled to these countries and displayed symptoms, they would be put into quarantine at our infectology centre," Perevoščikovs said, while stressing the need for all recent contacts of any infected individuals to be monitored as well.

The main danger of spreading the disease came from Ebola's unusually long incubation period, Perevoščikovs said: "The incubation period is very long - around 21 days - so people could come back from the infected areas, return home and get on with normal life without noticing any symptoms. That's why we are recommending that travellers keep an eye on their health for twenty-two days after travel and consult their doctor if they have any concerns." 

Another problem was that initial symptoms were "like many other illnesses such as influenza", Perevoščikovs said, creating the danger that people would not seek medical help until it is too late.

The World Health Organization describes Ebola as "one of the world’s most virulent diseases... . Ebola outbreaks can devastate families and communities."

The infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people.

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