Brazil's Health Minister Marcelo Costa said on Wednesday (November 11) that a 46-year-old man coming from Guinea is being tested for Ebola after officials shut down a public health unit where he first got medical attention.
The man, whose name officials declined to provide, arrived in Brazil on November 6 and developed high fever with muscle pains and headaches two days later, the minister read in a statement.
In a news conference in Brasilia, Costa said the patient sought medical help at an emergency room in the Minas Gerais state capital, Belo Horizonte, and that the unit was thereafter closed preventively.
"The patient said he arrived on November 6 from Guinea, an African country where the Ebola epidemic started and where cases are still ongoing. According to the patient, the first symptoms began last Sunday, November 8, and with a rising fever, he sought medical care at a health clinic," he said.
Costa said the man was quarantined and will be flown later in the afternoon in a military plane to Rio de Janeiro, where the government has set up a lab at the Fiocruz institute to test blood samples for Ebola according to international security protocols.
He added that a second round of tests would be run in case the first samples tested negative.
"Upon his arrival at the institute, they will collect blood samples to run tests, which will be sent to a lab in Fiocruz for analysis. The first results should come out in 24 hours. In case it turns out to be negative, 48 hours after the first blood tests, a new test will be run to double check the results, and once again the results will be available in 24 hours. Until then, the patient will remain quarantined and will receive all medical assistance at the Evandro Chagas institute in Fiocruz," he said.
Guinea is one of three impoverished West African countries, along with Liberia and Sierra Leone, that have suffered with the most deadly outbreak of the Ebola virus in recent years.
Medical workers and other patients who had contact with the man are being monitored by health officials, according to the ministry.
Castro said Brazil immediately informed international health authorities of the suspected case.
Ebola is highly infectious and even being in the same room as someone with the disease can put you at risk
Not as far as we know. Ebola isn't contagious until symptoms begin
, and it spreads through direct contact with the bodily fluids of patients. It is not, from what we know of the science so far, an airborne virus. So contact with the patient's sweat, blood, vomit, feces or semen could cause infection, and the body remains infectious after death. Much of the spread in west Africa has been attributed to the initial distrust of medical staff, leaving many to be treated at home by loved ones, poorly equipped medics catching the disease from patients, and the traditional burial rites involving manually washing of the dead body. From what we know already, you can't catch it from the air, you can't catch it from food, you can't catch it from water.
Cancelling all flights from west Africa would stop the spread of Ebola
This actually has pretty serious implications. British Airways suspended its four-times-weekly flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone until the end of March, the only direct flight to the region from the UK. In practice, anyone can just change planes somewhere else and get to Britain from Europe, north Africa, or the Middle East. And aid agencies say that flight cancellations are hampering efforts to get the disease under control, they rely on commercial flights to get to the infected regions. Liberia's information minister, Lewis Brown, told the Telegraph this week that BA was putting more people in danger. "We need as many airlines coming in to this region as possible, because the cost of bringing in supplies and aid workers is becoming prohibitive," he told the Telegraph.
"There just aren't enough seats on the planes. I can understand BA's initial reaction back in August, but they must remember this is a global fight now, not just a west African one, and we can't just be shut out." Christopher Stokes, director of MSF in Brussels, agreed: “Airlines have shut down many flights and the unintended consequence has been to slow and hamper the relief effort, paradoxically increasing the risk of this epidemic spreading across countries in west Africa first, then potentially elsewhere. We have to stop Ebola at source and this means we have to be able to go there.”
Temperature screening at airports is an effective way to stop those who have the disease from travelling
The screening process is pretty porous, especially when individuals want
to subvert it. Wake up on the morning of your flight, feel a bit hot, and you definitely don't want to be sent to an isolation booth for days and have to miss your flight. Take an ibuprofen and you can lower your temperature enough to get past the scanners. And if you suspect you have Ebola, you might be desperate to leave, seeing how much better the treatment success has been in western nations. And experts have warned that you cannot expect people to be honest about who they have had contact with. Thomas Eric Duncan, the Ebola victim who died in Texas, told officials he had not been in contact with anyone with the disease
, but had in fact visited someone in the late stages of the virus, though he said he believed it was malaria. The extra screening that the US implemented since his death probably wouldn't have singled out Duncan when he arrived from hard-hit Liberia last month, because he had no symptoms while travelling.
Border staff should stop people coming in to the country who are at risk
LEON NEAL via Getty Images
They're not doctors, and it's a monumental task to train 23,500 people who work for the UK Border Agency how to correctly diagnose a complex disease, and spot it in the millions of people who come through British transport hubs. Public Health England has provided UK Border Force with advice on the assessment of an unwell patient on entry to UK, but they can't be expected to check everyone.
Screening at British airports should be implemented to stop unwell people coming in from affected areas
As mentioned before, the UK, especially London, is a major transport hub. Unlike the US, most of those coming from west Africa will have crossed through Europe, so infected people could be coming from practically anywhere, not just flights directly from those countries. This would require the UK to screen every returning traveller, as people could return to the UK from an affected country through any port of entry. This would be huge numbers of low risk people, at vast, vast expense.