MADRID: Countries across the world scrambled on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) to stem a deadly Ebola outbreak that UN officials warn is getting worse as New York’s main JFK airport prepared to screen travelers from epidemic-hit west Africa.
More than 4,000 people have died from Ebola in seven countries since the start of the year, according to the United Nation’s World Health Organization (WHO), and the disease appears to be outpacing efforts to fight it.
“The virus is far ahead of us and every day the situation gets worse,” the head of the UN’s emergency Ebola mission Anthony Banbury, told UN leaders after a tour of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the nations worst affected by the epidemic.
At John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, passengers and crew arriving from the three countries at the center of the outbreak will have their temperatures taken and be screened for signs of illness and answer questions about possible exposure, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.
“Exit screening might not find every person with Ebola, however, it does not have to be perfect to help reduce the spread of Ebola,” the CDC said in a statement. Four other major US airports are to start similar checks next week.
In Latin America, Peru and Uruguay have announced airport measures and Mexico and Nicaragua planned to tighten controls of migrants heading for US soil as an Ebola precaution.
Amid fears of a global contagion, two countries on Saturday ruled out suspect cases.
The Brazilian health ministry reported a Guinean man tested negative for Ebola.
And in Macedonia, tests showed that a British man who died displaying Ebola-like symptoms did not have the virus, officials said.
IMF chief Christine Lagarde on Saturday pleaded with people to remember that all of Africa has not been hit with the deadly Ebola epidemic, which remains relatively isolated in three countries.
With those three West African nations, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, already seeing their economies crumble because of the disease, Lagarde emphasized, “We should be very careful not to terrify the planet in respect of the whole of Africa.”
In Spain, attention remained focused on 44-year-old nurse Teresa Romero, whose condition “improved in the night. She is conscious and talks from time to time when she is in a good mood,” a hospital source told Agence France-Presse.
There is still no vaccine or widely available treatment for Ebola, but ZMapp, made in California, is one of several drugs that have been fast-tracked for development.
And Russia’s Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova announced Saturday that her country has “created three (Ebola) vaccines… and we think they will be ready in the next six months.”
Trials for an Ebola vaccine are under way in Mali, which has no cases of the disease but borders Guinea where the outbreak began.
That vaccine is being developed by the British drug company GlaxoSmithKline and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The WHO reported 4,033 people have died from Ebola as of October 8 out of a total of 8,399 registered cases in seven countries.
The sharp rise in deaths came as the UN said aid pledges to fight the epidemic have fallen well short of the $1 billion (800 million euros) needed.
In Manila, President Benigno Aquino 3rd will discuss the Ebola crisis with WHO officials on Monday amid lingering concerns that it might enter the country “in just a matter of time.”
Aquino will speak at the 65th session of the World Health Organization for the Western Pacific to be held at the Philippine International Convention Center.
Malacanang said the Philippines remains free of the Ebola virus but the Department of Health (DOH) warned that “it is just a matter of time when the Philippines reports its first Ebola case.”
Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag admitted that “outbreak counter-measures that existed today are not enough to contain” the outbreak.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., however, gave assurances that the government had stepped up efforts to block the entry of the dreaded disease. For one, the Health department has rolled out a “multi-sectoral response plan” against Ebola, he said.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona announced during the first National Ebola Virus Disease Summit held recently in Quezon City that the plan contains the interim guidelines for disease surveillance, notification and reporting of suspected cases, clinical management including laboratory testing from suspected cases and infection control.
The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila) will serve as the national referral center for testing and analyzing emerging and reemerging infectious diseases using the same methods being applied by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The RITM had examined 18 suspected cases of Ebola and all of them tested negative for the virus.