| Amid an epidemic of the Ebola virus in Africa, the Foreign Ministry issued a special alert on all regions in Guinea on Thursday. The ministry said Koreans should not visit Guinea and any Koreans currently staying in the nation must immediately evacuate to a safe country. The Foreign Ministry reviewed adding Sierra Leone and Liberia to the list on Friday.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday that the Ebola virus has taken 729 lives as of July 27 and infected 1,323. Both the numbers of the dead and infected are the highest ever since the first outbreak was confirmed in 1976. Most of the dead were infected in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.
Meanwhile, a patient who is showing signs of infection of the Ebola virus Wednesday since visiting Africa has been reported in Hong Kong, which is spreading concerns that the virus may enter Korea. We provide information on the deadly virus in a Q&A format.
Q. How likely is the Ebola virus to reach Korea?
"Intercontinental contagion is quite unlikely. The Ebola virus kills 90 percent of its infected. Unlike the new flu virus, people infected with the Ebola virus dies in a matter of days, which result in few cases of other people becoming infected. The WHO also believes the possibility of infection across the sea to regions that are not bordering nations is low. In particular, the Ebola virus is passed through contact of blood or saliva, etc, so being on the same plane with an afflicted patient does not pass it on. There have been as yet no reported cases of airborne contamination."
Q. What are the symptoms and spread of infection?
"In the early stages, symptoms, such as high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and muscle aches, are similar to a severe cold. In particular, there can be severe hemorrhage in the respiratory system, stomach, and bowels. After an incubation period of two to 21 days, the patient dies eight to nine days after the symptoms show. Infection is possible if a person directly contacts stool, urine, blood, sweat, and semen. The spread of the disease is slower than diseases caused by an airborne virus. During the incubation period, the virus is not contagious."
Q. How can we prevent it?
"There are no vaccines or treatments for the Ebola virus. Until a vaccine is developed, prevention is the best method. People living in countries where the virus has broken out, including Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and people who must visit those nations should avoid contact with infected people and animals and be thorough in hygiene, such as washing hands often. The Korean Center for Disease Control and Prevention is making preparations for if the virus enters Korea, by organizing an Ebola virus task force team from April and stepping up monitoring of outbreaks at home and abroad. When there are symptoms including a fever and hemorrhaging after visiting the relevant nations, the patient must report to the quarantine officer in the airport immediately upon arrival in Korea."