First traveller from Ebola region arrives in Geneva

A woman walks past an Ebola awareness poster in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in September 2014. Keystone

This content was published on September 22, 2014
Jeannie Wurz,

The first person travelling from an Ebola-infected region to Switzerland arrived by private plane in Geneva on Monday. The man was bitten by an infected child while working as a nurse in a hospital in Sierre Leone.

The man, an employee of an international aid organisation, was wearing protective clothing when he was bitten, and the risk of his acquiring the infection is considered very low.

The Geneva-based organisation arranged for the man’s flight to Switzerland. On arrival he was taken to the Geneva University Hospital, where he will remain under surveillance for three weeks, the disease’s maximum incubation period.

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa began in Guinea and spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia. Since March 2014, 5,300 people have been infected and 2,600 have died. The current outbreak is considered the most severe since the virus was discovered in 1976.

The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health has drawn up guidelines for dealing with potential cases of Ebola within its borders, but at most two cases are expected here. Thus far, Switzerland has contributed CHF3.7 million ($3.9 million) to help fight the disease in West Africa.

On August 8 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. This allows WHO to take measures worldwide to prevent the spread of the disease, including closing borders and limiting international travel.

On September 18, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan addressed the UN Security Council,External link saying the virus “keeps delivering one surprise after another. Now we must catch up, in the most urgent and pragmatic way possible.”

However, on Monday WHO cautioned against isolation of the Ebola-infected countries, saying that general travel restrictions could lead to negative economic consequences for them. 

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