Ebola scare

By on November 5, 2014

There is no effective cure for Ebola virus.  With a high fatality rate, everyone is concerned.

The Ebola outbreak reported to be spreading at an alarming rate has raised warning flags all over the world. The massive outbreak has caused the Australian government to impose a visa ban on Ebola-hit countries. The United States has initiated an isolation order for soldiers returning from mission in West Africa.

ebolaOn Oct. 27, upon arrival at Haneda airport of a 45-year old Japanese-Canadian journalist after a two-month stay in Liberia, complained of headache and a 100-degree fever. The first potential Ebola patient tested negative on two tests but remained hospitalized for another blood test.

The article that came out in Japan Times reporting that there is no level 4 biohazard safety facilities available in Japan (should an outbreak occur) raised concerns in the foreign community. Can or can Japan not handle treatment of an Ebola patient? We asked Dr. Joe Kurosu, a physician at the Primary Care Tokyo for his opinion.

Dr. Kurosu says…
The Japan Times article “No biohazard facilities in Japan can handle Ebola” (October 17, 2014), while factually correct, is somewhat misleading. While it is true that there are no Level 4 facilities, such facilities are not necessary to care for patients infected with Ebola virus. As the CDC states, “Any…hospital thanks following CDC’s infection control recommendations and can isolate a patient in their own room with a private bathroom is capable of safely managing a patient with Ebola.” Thus “level 4” facilities are not necessary for treatment and there are many hospitals in Japan that can provide the appropriate level of care. In addition, I would suggest that Japan is at an advantage at this point, as lessons have been learned from the mistakes made in the care and procedures that were provided recently in the U.S.

We must also maintain the proper perspective regarding the potential threat of this terrible disease versus the known and very real threat of other more common diseases such as influenza, which causes thousands of deaths each year.

In the absence of an actual individual infected with Ebola in the community, no specific precautionary measures should be necessary. General hygienic measures such as hand washing are always recommended. For children, making certain that they are up to date on the recommended vaccinations for diseases that are preventable is highly recommended.

While Ebola is obviously a terrible disease, given the current high level of awareness, it is unlikely that widespread infection will occur in Japan. Any potential or actual cases will likely be rapidly isolated and contacts tracked, preventing any further spread.

My final recommendation would be for people to continue to stay aware, but not become overly concerned or overly fearful. Focus on the things we can control, and be thankful for the peace and health we enjoy in this country.


Latest update: On Nov 7, a Tokyo resident in his 60s and a 20-year old Guinean woman had developed fever upon arriving in Japan. Both of them  had travelled to West Africa. The two were diagnosed with blood samples sent to the National Institute of Infectious diseases but later tested negative for Ebola.

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