Last week Ireland rushed to deny that a man with Ebola-like symptoms who was being tested in Dublin, did not have the disease. It may find such a refutation more difficult this time after Irish Times reported that a man was found dead last night in Donegal, after working in Sierra Leone, the epicenter of the current Ebola outbreak, and where "it is understood that a number of colleagues had contracted the virus." The deceased was taken to Letterkenny General Hospital where the HSE is carrying out tests to see whether the death resulted from Ebola.
Letterkenny General Hospital. Photograph: Google Street View
From the Irish Times:
In a statement, the HSE said it was currently assessing a suspected case of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Donegal.
“The public health department was made aware earlier today of the remains of an individual, discovered early this morning, who had recently travelled to the one of the areas in Africa affected by the current Ebola virus disease outbreak,” it said.
“The appropriate national guidelines, in line with international best practice, are being followed by the public health team dealing with the situation. This means that the body of the deceased has been isolated to minimise the potential spread of any possible virus.”
The statement said blood samples had been sent for laboratory testing to confirm whether or not this individual had contracted Ebola virus disease.
“Until a diagnosis is confirmed, and as a precautionary measure, the individual’s remains will stay in the mortuary pending the laboratory results which are expected late tomorrow.”
As usual, attempts to minimize a panic were implemented and the HSE said the risk of transmission of any disease was considered to be “extremely low”. Nonetheless while tests are being carried out for the Ebola virus, "isolation procedures have been put in place."
Dr Darina O’Flanagan, head of the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said: “In general, the risk of contracting Ebola virus disease is extremely low and would involve very close personal contact with the infected individual or their body fluids for there to be any risk at all.” “We await the outcome of the laboratory tests before we will know whether or not this individual had contracted Ebola virus disease. The appropriate public health guidelines are being followed at every stage in this process as a precaution.”
And while Ireland awaits results of the latest Ebola test, the Congo, where as we reported yesterday a mysterious Ebola-like disease had claimed the lives of 10 people, has denied the diseases is Ebola, even as the death toll has now soared to some 70 casualties according to Reuters.
A WHO report dated Thursday and seen by Reuters said that 592 people had contracted the disease, of whom 70 died. Five health care workers, including one doctor, are among the dead.
"This is not Ebola," a WHO spokesman said in an email to Reuters on Thursday.
Then again, perhaps the WHO is fibbing just a bit to prevent another all out panic: "A local priest who asked not to be named said that the illness had affected several villages and estimated that the death toll was over 100 people. Kinshasa sent its health minister, Felix Kabange Numbi, and a team of experts on Wednesday to the region after reports of several deaths."
If not Ebola then what? According to WHO, the deaths are the result of an outbreak of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, a disease prevalent in... dogs? Symptoms of the two diseases are similar; they include vomiting, diarrhoea and internal bleeding. But the fatality rate for this outbreak of haemorrhagic gastroenteritis is much lower than the West Africa Ebola outbreak, at around 12 percent versus close to 60 percent. "The WHO, which sent representatives to the area on Wednesday together with the Congolese team of experts, said four samples would be flown from the town of Boende on Friday to the capital Kinshasa for further testing."
So is the WHO simply trying to prevent the spread of panic and deny that Ebola has now spread to the second largest country in Africa? We will surely find out soon enough, especially if the WHO, too, advises the population "to keep calm and BTFD"...