The Ebola virus has made its way to Europe and the World Health Organization has noted that the continued spread of Ebola is “quite unavoidable,” as four people are now in hospital after coming into contact with infected persons.
ZsuZsanna Jakab, the European director of the WHO, told Reuters that the continued spread of Ebola is a near certainty due to the movement of people back and forth between Europe and Africa.
“Such imported cases and similar events as have happened in Spain will happen also in the future, most likely,” Jakab told Reuters. “It is quite unavoidable… that such incidents will happen in the future because of the extensive travel both from Europe to the affected countries and the other way around.”
Far from sounding the alarm on an Ebola in Europe crisis, Jakab was attempting to allay fears. Europe, she said, is well prepared to deal with Ebola — more so than any other place in the world.
“[T]he most important thing in our view,” Jakab added, “is that Europe is still at low risk and that the western part of the European region particularly is the best prepared in the world to respond to viral hemorrhagic fevers, including Ebola.”
Jakab’s comments came following the revelation of the first person to contract the Ebola virus outside of West Africa. That patient, a nurse working at a Madrid hospital where two other Ebola patients were being treated, has been quarantined and she is said to be in stable condition.
Health officials said that 22 people came into contact with that nurse and that they are being monitored. Those patients have not been quarantined, but they are being kept under observation to detect any signs of infection.
With Ebola spreading for the first time outside the confines of western Africa, the news has been full of reports on the disease, even though transmission from one person to the next is relatively difficult. Still, health officials even in New Jersey are on alert for patients that may be exhibiting signs of infection. One must come into contact with a symptomatic individual or their bodily fluids in order to risk infection, and even then infection is not guaranteed.
That said, it is possible that — in very close quarters — Ebola could spread through the air. Dr. C.J. Peters, who led the Centers for Disease Control’s most far-reaching study of Ebola transmissibility, told the Los Angeles Times that they did not have enough data to totally exclude the possibility of airborne Ebola transmission.
In the meantime, though, officials maintain that Ebola is highly unlikely to spin out of control. They will, though, still be keeping an eye on the virus as it makes its way out of Africa.
[Lead image via Japan Times]