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Ebola might reach Kazakhstan in near future

14 october 2014, 18:41
0
Photo courtesy of sobesednik.ru
Photo courtesy of sobesednik.ru

Deadly Ebola virus may reach Kazakhstan at the turn of 2014-2015, Tengrinews reports citing Megapolis.

The main problem is that the incubation period of Zaire type of Ebola virus, which is responsible for the current outbreak, is 21 days and it can spread through contact (hand touch) with a sick person, as was the case with the Spanish nurse Teresa Romero.

Ebola has already claimed more than 4,000 human lives, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Director General of the World Health Organization Dr. Margaret Chan called the virus a “crisis for international peace”.

Ebola continues to spread in West Africa - Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria, Congo and Senegal. Cases have been registered in the United States, Spain, Norway, Australia and other countries. Among those infected were also those who had never been to West Africa.

It is unlikely the virus will reach Kazakhstan directly from the most affected areas, since the Central Asian country has no direct contacts with these African states. Nevertheless, the virus might reach Kazakhstan either via Europe or the United States, where the first deaths from the virus have already been recorded and dozens of people have been quarantined.

The virus might spread to Kazakhstan via India, Thailand and Turkey as well. Sufficient is to say that up to five flights per week connect Istanbul to Kinshasa (Congo) and Lagos (Nigeria). India and Thailand also have relatively developed air traffic with the countries of Africa.

As for the overland route, the virus might get to our country through the border crossings with Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

The newspaper offers a hypothetical situation involving an Uzbek or Kyrgyz national traveling through an airport in Istanbul, Deli or Bangkok. Imagine that in a transit hall she or he communicated with a passenger unsuspecting of being infected with the virus, the newspaper says. Then several days later, already back in his or her homeland and infected, the person wishes to visit his relatives or friends in South Kazakhstan Oblast or Zhambyl Oblast.

“The question is will our specialists at checkpoints in Saryagash or Korday be able to recognize this Ebola carrier in a timely manner?” Megapolis wonders.

In late August, Deputy Director for Department of the Committee on Consumer Protection Aitmagambet Zholshorinov confidently stated in a TV interview that the situation was not causing any serious concern in Kazakhstan. He said that the country did not “have the conditions for people getting infected with this virus, because the disease is found only in Southern African countries. Usually, humans get infected through contact with infected chimpanzees and gorillas. We have no such conditions,” Zholshorinov said.

With this information as the benchmark level of public awareness about ebola and means of its transmission the question of whether Kazakhstani border services would be able to spot an infected person sounds ominously to say the least. 

Now, however, the danger seems to be more serious than previously thought.

The press service of the Kazakh President reported that a meeting of an expert committee of the Security Council of Kazakhstan was convened in late September and entirely devoted to the epidemiological situation in Central Asia. Ebola was on the agenda as well.

"The experts expressed concern over escalation of of sanitary-epidemiological risks in Central Asia. It was admitted that outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases and viruses (Ebola fever, epidemics of measles, tuberculosis, plague, etc.) posed a threat to the public health and economic stability of Kazakhstan," the statement said.

The meeting was attended by heads of Kazakh state agencies, heads of sanitary-epidemiological and veterinary services, and experts of relevant Kazakh research institutes.

During the discussion, the Secretary of State of Kazakhstan Adilbek Zhaksybekov underlined the importance of preventive and protective measures to strengthen the biosecurity of Kazakhstan amid the growing epidemiological challenges and threats from outside.

Zhaksybekov emphasised the need to rise public awareness, modernize infrastructure of the national sanitary-epidemiological and veterinary services, improve mechanisms for interagency cooperation in protecting the life and health of citizens.

Also discussed were the approaches to development of sanitary-epidemiological services in Kazakhstan and prospects of international cooperation in this field. The Expert Committee gave instructions to the relevant state authorities. In addition, the matter will be discussed at the next meeting of the Security Council.

Hopefully, Kazakhstan will be ready to face epidemiological challenges that may arise. And hopefully ebola will never reach Kazakhstan and the challenge will never be posed.

Unfortunately, there is no barrier that can be put to stop the spread of the virus in Kazakhstan. Fortunately, Ebola reaching Kazakhstan is not very likely, though it can spread to the country both by air and ground transport, and there is still no effective and officially recognized vaccine against the virus so far.

By Dinara Urazova  

 


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