Ebola: How the Middle East is keeping the virus at bay

Published October 26th, 2014 - 15:34 GMT

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New York City joined the list of cities grappling with Ebola when Médecins Sans Frontières confirmed on Thursday that one of their doctors was infected with the deadly virus. Dr. Craig Spencer had just returned to the United States after volunteering with MSF in the West African nation of Guinea. Back home, he self-monitored for symptoms, and when a fever spiked on Saturday he checked into hospital isolation. Officials immediately retraced his recent city travels, quarantined his fiancée and sought to quell public panic with a consistent media chorus of factual rationality. What makes this NYC outbreak unique? The new media focus on calm. Continue reading below »

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Algerian health authorities have mobilized medical workers, medicine and equipment to their southern border to counter the spread of Ebola. There is a dedicated isolation unit at Si Haoues Hospital of Tindouf, and thermal detection devices have been set up at border crossings and Tindouf Airport. There have been no cases of Ebola in Algeria.
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Image 1 of 10:  1 / 10Algerian health authorities have mobilized medical workers, medicine and equipment to their southern border to counter the spread of Ebola. There is a dedicated isolation unit at Si Haoues Hospital of Tindouf, and thermal detection devices have been set up at border crossings and Tindouf Airport. There have been no cases of Ebola in Algeria.

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An Anti-Ebola Technical Committee is implementing disease control measures at all Tunisian airports where arrivals are examined using heat-detection cameras, and the Tunisian National Observatory of New and Emerging Diseases says key hospitals are geared up to isolate patients. Tunisia’s first suspected Ebola case was identified last week.
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Image 2 of 10:  2 / 10An Anti-Ebola Technical Committee is implementing disease control measures at all Tunisian airports where arrivals are examined using heat-detection cameras, and the Tunisian National Observatory of New and Emerging Diseases says key hospitals are geared up to isolate patients. Tunisia’s first suspected Ebola case was identified last week.

Enlarge
Morocco conducts extra health screening at national entry points, including Casablanca Airport. Encouraged by the WHO, Royal Air Maroc still flies to West Africa to aid the steady flow of aid workers and supplies. In August, an Ebola-infected Liberian travelled to Morocco where he died; the nation is currently Ebola-free.
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Image 3 of 10:  3 / 10Morocco conducts extra health screening at national entry points, including Casablanca Airport. Encouraged by the WHO, Royal Air Maroc still flies to West Africa to aid the steady flow of aid workers and supplies. In August, an Ebola-infected Liberian travelled to Morocco where he died; the nation is currently Ebola-free.

Enlarge
Jordan’s Ministry of Health is monitoring travelers from the three West African nations hit hardest by Ebola as they arrive at Jordan's airports. Detection devices have not been installed, but symptomatic passengers will be tested and isolated pending further medical examination. To date, there have been no cases in Jordan.
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Image 4 of 10:  4 / 10Jordan’s Ministry of Health is monitoring travelers from the three West African nations hit hardest by Ebola as they arrive at Jordan's airports. Detection devices have not been installed, but symptomatic passengers will be tested and isolated pending further medical examination. To date, there have been no cases in Jordan.

Enlarge
Saudi Arabia said Hajj was Ebola-free thanks to protective measures like a travel ban that kept more than 7,000 West African Muslims from making the pilgrimage. The kingdom’s emergency medical preparedness system was already in top form after dealing with the recent MERS coronavirus outbreak. No Ebola cases have been confirmed in Saudi Arabia.
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Image 5 of 10:  5 / 10Saudi Arabia said Hajj was Ebola-free thanks to protective measures like a travel ban that kept more than 7,000 West African Muslims from making the pilgrimage. The kingdom’s emergency medical preparedness system was already in top form after dealing with the recent MERS coronavirus outbreak. No Ebola cases have been confirmed in Saudi Arabia.

Enlarge
UAE airports are taking a “wait-and-see” stance with no travel restrictions or Ebola screening protocols currently in place. The Emirates took pre-emptive action and halted flights to Guinea. Air Arabia, out of Sharjah, doesn’t fly to affected West African nations, and Etihad Airways still flies to Nigeria. The UAE is currently Ebola-free.
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Image 6 of 10:  6 / 10UAE airports are taking a “wait-and-see” stance with no travel restrictions or Ebola screening protocols currently in place. The Emirates took pre-emptive action and halted flights to Guinea. Air Arabia, out of Sharjah, doesn’t fly to affected West African nations, and Etihad Airways still flies to Nigeria. The UAE is currently Ebola-free.

Enlarge
Lebanon’s health minister warned that the country faces “imminent danger” from Ebola due to their expats in West Africa; he gave key hospitals 3 weeks to prep quarantine units. Lebanon already suspended permits for workers from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, part of its plan to prevent Ebola spread. The nation has no Ebola cases.
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Image 7 of 10:  7 / 10Lebanon’s health minister warned that the country faces “imminent danger” from Ebola due to their expats in West Africa; he gave key hospitals 3 weeks to prep quarantine units. Lebanon already suspended permits for workers from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, part of its plan to prevent Ebola spread. The nation has no Ebola cases.

Enlarge
Israeli hospitals are holding drills for Ebola isolation, treatment and protection. Travel advisories were issued for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone; anyone entering Israel after being in those states in the 21 days preceding their arrival is required to report to a hospital emergency room if they become symptomatic. Israel is Ebola-free.
Reduce

Image 8 of 10:  8 / 10Israeli hospitals are holding drills for Ebola isolation, treatment and protection. Travel advisories were issued for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone; anyone entering Israel after being in those states in the 21 days preceding their arrival is required to report to a hospital emergency room if they become symptomatic. Israel is Ebola-free.

Enlarge
Egypt’s Ministry of Health sent letters to all hospitals alerting them to Ebola detection and treatment protocols. Cairo International Airport set up precautionary measures targeting travelers from Central and West Africa. Flights to Africa haven’t changed as there are no direct lines from Cairo to Ebola-ravaged nations. Egypt is virus-free.
Reduce

Image 9 of 10:  9 / 10Egypt’s Ministry of Health sent letters to all hospitals alerting them to Ebola detection and treatment protocols. Cairo International Airport set up precautionary measures targeting travelers from Central and West Africa. Flights to Africa haven’t changed as there are no direct lines from Cairo to Ebola-ravaged nations. Egypt is virus-free.

Enlarge
Pandemic makes odd bedfellows. Palestinian Authority officials, the PA’s WHO representative and Israeli officials are coordinating an Ebola strategy. Three Israeli mobile emergency clinics have been deployed in Palestine, and signs about Ebola in Hebrew, English, French and Arabic have been placed at all border crossings.
Reduce

Image 10 of 10:  10 / 10Pandemic makes odd bedfellows. Palestinian Authority officials, the PA’s WHO representative and Israeli officials are coordinating an Ebola strategy. Three Israeli mobile emergency clinics have been deployed in Palestine, and signs about Ebola in Hebrew, English, French and Arabic have been placed at all border crossings.

Enlarge

1

Algerian health authorities have mobilized medical workers, medicine and equipment to their southern border to counter the spread of Ebola. There is a dedicated isolation unit at Si Haoues Hospital of Tindouf, and thermal detection devices have been set up at border crossings and Tindouf Airport. There have been no cases of Ebola in Algeria.

Image 1 of 10Algerian health authorities have mobilized medical workers, medicine and equipment to their southern border to counter the spread of Ebola. There is a dedicated isolation unit at Si Haoues Hospital of Tindouf, and thermal detection devices have been set up at border crossings and Tindouf Airport. There have been no cases of Ebola in Algeria.

2

An Anti-Ebola Technical Committee is implementing disease control measures at all Tunisian airports where arrivals are examined using heat-detection cameras, and the Tunisian National Observatory of New and Emerging Diseases says key hospitals are geared up to isolate patients. Tunisia’s first suspected Ebola case was identified last week.

Image 2 of 10An Anti-Ebola Technical Committee is implementing disease control measures at all Tunisian airports where arrivals are examined using heat-detection cameras, and the Tunisian National Observatory of New and Emerging Diseases says key hospitals are geared up to isolate patients. Tunisia’s first suspected Ebola case was identified last week.

3

Morocco conducts extra health screening at national entry points, including Casablanca Airport. Encouraged by the WHO, Royal Air Maroc still flies to West Africa to aid the steady flow of aid workers and supplies. In August, an Ebola-infected Liberian travelled to Morocco where he died; the nation is currently Ebola-free.

Image 3 of 10Morocco conducts extra health screening at national entry points, including Casablanca Airport. Encouraged by the WHO, Royal Air Maroc still flies to West Africa to aid the steady flow of aid workers and supplies. In August, an Ebola-infected Liberian travelled to Morocco where he died; the nation is currently Ebola-free.

4

Jordan’s Ministry of Health is monitoring travelers from the three West African nations hit hardest by Ebola as they arrive at Jordan's airports. Detection devices have not been installed, but symptomatic passengers will be tested and isolated pending further medical examination. To date, there have been no cases in Jordan.

Image 4 of 10Jordan’s Ministry of Health is monitoring travelers from the three West African nations hit hardest by Ebola as they arrive at Jordan's airports. Detection devices have not been installed, but symptomatic passengers will be tested and isolated pending further medical examination. To date, there have been no cases in Jordan.

5

Saudi Arabia said Hajj was Ebola-free thanks to protective measures like a travel ban that kept more than 7,000 West African Muslims from making the pilgrimage. The kingdom’s emergency medical preparedness system was already in top form after dealing with the recent MERS coronavirus outbreak. No Ebola cases have been confirmed in Saudi Arabia.

Image 5 of 10Saudi Arabia said Hajj was Ebola-free thanks to protective measures like a travel ban that kept more than 7,000 West African Muslims from making the pilgrimage. The kingdom’s emergency medical preparedness system was already in top form after dealing with the recent MERS coronavirus outbreak. No Ebola cases have been confirmed in Saudi Arabia.

6

UAE airports are taking a “wait-and-see” stance with no travel restrictions or Ebola screening protocols currently in place. The Emirates took pre-emptive action and halted flights to Guinea. Air Arabia, out of Sharjah, doesn’t fly to affected West African nations, and Etihad Airways still flies to Nigeria. The UAE is currently Ebola-free.

Image 6 of 10UAE airports are taking a “wait-and-see” stance with no travel restrictions or Ebola screening protocols currently in place. The Emirates took pre-emptive action and halted flights to Guinea. Air Arabia, out of Sharjah, doesn’t fly to affected West African nations, and Etihad Airways still flies to Nigeria. The UAE is currently Ebola-free.

7

Lebanon’s health minister warned that the country faces “imminent danger” from Ebola due to their expats in West Africa; he gave key hospitals 3 weeks to prep quarantine units. Lebanon already suspended permits for workers from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, part of its plan to prevent Ebola spread. The nation has no Ebola cases.

Image 7 of 10Lebanon’s health minister warned that the country faces “imminent danger” from Ebola due to their expats in West Africa; he gave key hospitals 3 weeks to prep quarantine units. Lebanon already suspended permits for workers from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, part of its plan to prevent Ebola spread. The nation has no Ebola cases.

8

Israeli hospitals are holding drills for Ebola isolation, treatment and protection. Travel advisories were issued for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone; anyone entering Israel after being in those states in the 21 days preceding their arrival is required to report to a hospital emergency room if they become symptomatic. Israel is Ebola-free.

Image 8 of 10Israeli hospitals are holding drills for Ebola isolation, treatment and protection. Travel advisories were issued for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone; anyone entering Israel after being in those states in the 21 days preceding their arrival is required to report to a hospital emergency room if they become symptomatic. Israel is Ebola-free.

9

Egypt’s Ministry of Health sent letters to all hospitals alerting them to Ebola detection and treatment protocols. Cairo International Airport set up precautionary measures targeting travelers from Central and West Africa. Flights to Africa haven’t changed as there are no direct lines from Cairo to Ebola-ravaged nations. Egypt is virus-free.

Image 9 of 10Egypt’s Ministry of Health sent letters to all hospitals alerting them to Ebola detection and treatment protocols. Cairo International Airport set up precautionary measures targeting travelers from Central and West Africa. Flights to Africa haven’t changed as there are no direct lines from Cairo to Ebola-ravaged nations. Egypt is virus-free.

10

Pandemic makes odd bedfellows. Palestinian Authority officials, the PA’s WHO representative and Israeli officials are coordinating an Ebola strategy. Three Israeli mobile emergency clinics have been deployed in Palestine, and signs about Ebola in Hebrew, English, French and Arabic have been placed at all border crossings.

Image 10 of 10Pandemic makes odd bedfellows. Palestinian Authority officials, the PA’s WHO representative and Israeli officials are coordinating an Ebola strategy. Three Israeli mobile emergency clinics have been deployed in Palestine, and signs about Ebola in Hebrew, English, French and Arabic have been placed at all border crossings.

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Ebola is real. It’s scary. But it’s also pretty difficult to pick up, unless you have an appetite for bush meat or you're caring for someone stricken by the virus. It’s not airborne. It spreads by direct contact with an infected person’s skin, blood, or body fluids. Statistically, each Ebola-infected person will, on average, infect two others. (For context, a measles patient is likely to infect 18 others!)

Inadequate public health systems and sluggish assistance from wealthier nations put undeveloped countries at risk. In developed countries, the risk is public hysteria that prompts knee-jerk reactions to demonstrate national control.  Incoming travelers undergo “honor-system” screening interviews, or are physically checked with iffy technologies. Authorities ban flights and lobby to close borders. A sort of medical vigilantism can occur, with resources being deployed not so much to tend genuine medical needs, but more to tamp down panic.

Ebola’s toll extends beyond its immediate victims. The World Bank predicts that Africa will lose an estimated $32.6 billion in 2015 because of this epidemic. There’s an economic knock-on to the Middle East in terms of lost trade, travel, and tourism, mostly triggered by fear. Morocco, host of the 2015 African Nations Cup tournament in January, has asked that the event be postponed due to the pandemic (no decision has yet been made), despite the World Health Organization declaring travel between non-Ebola affected countries is not a concern. Overreaction could be more damaging than the bug.

The best approach is caution, not fear. Stay current on news, but vet your sources.  Here’s a look into what Middle East governments are doing to prepare for Ebola outbreaks at home.

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