Taiwan CDC raises travel notice level for DRC to Level 2: Alert for Ebola virus disease

Taiwan CDC on Tuesday raised the travel notice for Ebola virus for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Level 2: Alert, advising travelers visiting DRC to take actions to reduce their risk of Ebola infection

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Ebola Virus Global Panorama (By Wikimedia Commons)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News)—The Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC) on Tuesday raised the travel notice for Ebola virus for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Level 2: Alert, advising travelers visiting DRC to take actions to reduce their risk of Ebola infection.

On May 8, DRC’s Ministry of Health (MOH) declared an outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Bikoro Health Zone, Equateur Province, which is northwest Congo. Between April 4 and May 13, 2018, a total of 39 cases, including two confirmed cases, 25 probable cases, 12 suspected cases, and 19 deaths, were reported in Bikoro Health Zone, according to Taiwan CDC.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is difficult to estimate the magnitude of the epidemic due to the nature of the pathogen and the current lack of epidemiological and demographic information. However, WHO said it will continue to closely monitor the outbreak.

The Ebola virus is transmitted by direct contact with body fluids such as blood, excretions, and semen of an infected human or wild animals such as monkey and bat.

The incubation period varies between two and 21 days. Infected individuals are not contagious during the incubation period, but can spread the virus once symptoms develop. Symptoms usually begin with sudden onset of high fever, severe fatigue, muscle aches, headache, and sore throat, which are followed by vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, maculopapular rash, and internal and external bleeding. Severe cases usually experience decreased functions of the liver, the kidneys and the central nervous system, shock, and multiple organ failure, the agency said.

The case fatality rate can be as high as 90%, Taiwan CDC said, adding that currently, there is no approved vaccine to prevent the disease. Only an experimental vaccine to be tested in large-scale efficacy trials is available at the moment, the agency said.

Although the Ebola outbreak has occurred in a remote area in DRC and the risk of transmission to Taiwan at the moment is low, Taiwan CDC still advises travelers to follow its “Two Don’ts and One Do” advice in protecting themselves against Ebola: (1) Do not travel to Ebola-affected areas; if you must travel to an area with an Ebola outbreak, avoid contact with and consumption of wild animals such as fruit bats and primates, (2) Do not visit hospitals or have direct contact with patients, and (3) Do pay attention to personal hygiene and take preventive measures such as washing hands frequently and wear a mask when coughing. 

In addition, travelers are urged to monitor their own health for 21 days after their return to Taiwan and seek immediate medical attention if symptoms develop.