With Ebola death toll having passed 4,000 worldwide, a female nurse got infected while caring for an Ebola patient in the U.S. She is the first person who has no West Africa travel history to contract the deadly virus within the U.S.
Meanwhile, Rep. Yang Seung-jo of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, a member of the National Assembly`s Health Welfare Committee claimed that a patient who died on Sept. 22 after having being suspected for contracting the Ebola virus had been hospitalized almost two hours after the case was first reported. He added that the belated hospitalization was due to the Korean welfare authorities` defective initial response. This person, who had returned from Ghana, first reported sickness from fever and headache to a fire station on 6:41 p.m. on Sept. 21. The Busan Metropolitan City Fire Department then phone-called the Welfare Ministry`s Center for Disease Control and Prevention three times but couldn`t reach them.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the hospital left this patient outside the hospital for a certain time. This person was later found to have died of malaria, but it could have been startling if it were an Ebola virus. The U.S. nurse contracted Ebola due to the hospital`s immature response and absence of the Center for Disease Control`s guidelines.
There are no cure drugs and vaccines for Ebola, which is spreading rapidly. The only prevention now is to block the entry of those infected into the country. Busan will hold the 19th International Telecommunication Union Plenipotentiary Conference on this coming Sunday but decided not to ban entry of participants from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three managed country list, and requested them to go through quarantine process before departing the respective countries. Ebola has an incubation period of 21 days. This means that even if a person has no fever while during quarantine just before departure, this doesn`t mean the person should not be speculated.
A team led by Alessandro Vespignani, a physicist at Northeastern University in the U.S. recently calculated the odds of Ebola infection via virus spread channel and expected the next victim countries would be China and India. Some 20,000 Chinese people live in West Africa and the odds of them being contracted is high, according to the professor. This means Korea is also at risk. It is thus crucial for Korea not only to take preventive measures against this virus in airports and ports but also to establish joint international cooperation systems such as sharing treatment experience and joint vaccine development.