Will a summer vacationer bring back Ebola to Japan?
As of Aug 2, the number of known fatalities from Ebola hemorrhagic fever—a disease with a mortality rate ranging from 50 to 90%—was 729. That figure has since increased by several hundred.
In the United States, the Atlanta, Georgia-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Aug 6 that it had raised its alert level to 1, the highest of six levels, and issued an advisory that Americans refrain from travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“Ebola HF is contracted through direct contact with the excretions, saliva, blood and other bodily fluids of an infected person,” Dr Kiichi Inoue, director of the Setagaya Inoue Hospital, tells Shukan Jitsuwa (Aug 21-28). “Its incubation period can range from three days to three weeks, and for that reason it’s difficult to grasp where the patient was infected. Also, at the initial stage, many symptoms of Ebola—such as fever, diarrhea, headache and so on—resemble those of influenza, making diagnosis difficult.”
In a July 31 telebriefing, Dr Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, was quoted as saying the reason for issuing the advisory against nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone was “... because the ongoing Ebola outbreak in these countries poses a potential risk to travelers particularly if you are traveling and happen to fall ill or be injured in a car crash and needed to go to a medical facility which might have recognized or unrecognized spread of Ebola.”
“People living in the infected countries are known to eat the meat of monkeys, gorillas and other wild game, and this is believed to be how the infection initially spread to humans,” an unnamed science writer tells the magazine. “The first cases in the current outbreak were traced to an area of jungle proximate to Conakry, the capital of Guinea. It’s likely that infected individuals then traveled from there to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone.”
Since then, the media has reported that a man from Liberia flew to Nigeria, where he was diagnosed with Ebola. He has since expired from the disease.
“Fundamentally Ebola is not spread via airborne infection, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that passengers who were on the same plane won’t become infected,” the science writer explains. “In Africa, medical workers have been contracting the disease one after another, and over 100 have reportedly been infected, despite the protective gear they were wearing, with half of them dying. That alone shows how easily it can spread.”
The aforementioned Dr Inoue concurs.
“The possibility of Ebola reaching Japan is not zero,” he remarks gravely, adding, “Once a single case makes its way into the country, it’s feared that it will spread like wildfire.”
With the summer season for overseas travel set to peak just a few days from now, Shukan Jitsuwa concludes, an extra level of vigilance is called for.
Meanwhile, Yukan Fuji (Aug 9) worries that given the disease’s incubation period of up to three weeks, it may not be practical to spot an infected person upon arrival at an airport.
What will happen if a carrier of the virus enters Japan? A staff member at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare tells the newspaper, “Considering that Ebola HF is only transmitted through direct contact with the affected person’s bodily fluids, it’s unlikely that it would spread.” So while it appears there’s no need for excess worry, Japan still cannot let down its guard.
Finally, Nifty@News site runs a story from Spa! magazine that quotes Tokyo-based journalist Benjamin Fulford as claiming the current epidemic in Africa is “a biological weapons attack.”
“The American physician who contracted Ebola was quickly evacuated and treated with the medication ZMAPP, and it’s reported he’s shown miraculous improvement,” says Fulford. “It’s clearly strange that only those people in Africa should suffer. That should have been tried right from the start of the Ebola pandemic.”