Quarantine without panicWhat began with just a handful of cases in Guinea in March quickly evolved into a deadly outbreak as the Ebola scare has spread quickly beyond West Africa.
The head of the World Health Organization and presidents of West African countries met on Friday and agreed to launch a $100 million emergency joint response plan to contain the outbreak. “The scale of the Ebola outbreak and the persistent threat requires us to take the response to a new level,” said WHO Director General Margaret Chan. The WHO estimates that 729 people have died from Ebola so far in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria with a total of 1,323 infections confirmed since the outbreak started early this year. Medical experts describe Ebola as one of the world’s most deadly diseases because there is no vaccination against it and no cure.
Korea must draw up a response plan as more than 4 million people are expected to head overseas this summer. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has started creating medical and monitoring guidelines for the disease and has been contacting visitors to West African countries since April. Travels to virus-hit countries and nearby areas must be contained.
A volunteer medical group’s scheduled visit this week to Ivory Coast, which lies along the Gulf of Guinea, was cancelled. But other charity and missionary groups plan to go ahead with their summer activities in Ghana and other areas in West Africa.
Their commitment to locals is highly commendable. But many international aid groups, including the Peace Corps, are pulling out of the areas because of the deadly threat. Except for medical professionals with an expertise in viruses, doctors should cooperate with health authorities in preventive action. Volunteer workers must use their common sense as they are risking not only their lives, but the public safety of an entire nation. The legislature must come up with a law to enforce a travel ban on Korean citizens to war-torn or dangerous and disease-inflicted regions.
There is no need for a panicked response. The Ebola virus is not contracted by air, but through physical contact with blood or other bodily fluids from inflected people or animals. Health authorities must disseminate information on the virus and its symptoms, and ways to prevent infection while carrying out extra quarantines in airports and ports and monitoring overseas travelers.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 4, Page 30