We could handle ebola, Northern Rivers health service says

TESTS have confirmed an all clear for a patient with suspected ebola virus.

Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young last night confirmed tests on a Gold Coast man suspected of having ebola virus disease returned a negative result.

It follows comments earlier that the patient was exceedingly unlikely to have the disease based on his symptoms and the areas in Africa he travelled to.

Dr Young said while it was highly unlikely ebola virus disease would come here, anyone who had travelled to parts of West Africa affected by the outbreak and who was concerned about their health should visit their GP.

Over the last month or so a lot of information has been sent to GPs, hospitals and laboratories and we've put in place procedures on how to recognise and deal with an ebola outbreak

- Northern NSW Local Health District public health director Paul Corben

Gold Coast Health's Damian Green confirmed yesterday that a patient, named by media as Michael Walsh, 27, was transferred to Gold Coast University Hospital after paramedics identified symptoms similar to those of the virus. He said such an infection was unlikely.

The patient returned from a trip to the Congo on Tuesday and became ill in the Southport police watchhouse after being arrested for alleged trespass at a Surfers Paradise hotel.

The World Health Organisation has reported more than 2296 confirmed deaths from the West Africa ebola outbreak, which it declared an international health emergency.

Northern NSW Local Health District is confident local medical practitioners could manage any possible ebola threat.

The district's public health director, Paul Corben, stressed the importance of remaining calm, noting the sick man could have been struck by malaria or any number of exotic illnesses.

What is Ebola?

  • It is an often fatal disease caused by a virus. There are several strains.
  • Can cause fever, aches, weakness, and headaches, progressing to vomiting, diarrhea, rash and liver and kidney malfunction. Some cases present with profuse internal and external bleeding and progress to multi-organ failure.
  • Spreads via contact with blood, secretions or other bodily fluids of infected people and contact with contaminated environments.
  • 50-90% of those infected will die of the disease.
  • Fruit bats are considered the natural host, with outbreaks occasionally occurring in chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys and forest antelope.
  • There have been 24 human outbreaks in Central and East Africa since its identification in 1976. This year's outbreak, the first in West Africa, is the worst.

- SOURCE: NSW Government

"We're interested in this case, at a professional and community level. We are not alarmed," Mr Corben said.

"Over the last month or so a lot of information has been sent to GPs, hospitals and laboratories and we've put in place procedures on how to recognise and deal with an ebola outbreak."

Ebola is only transmitted by contact with infected body fluids, so Mr Corben said others on Mr Walsh's flight would be in the clear.

Queensland Health said reports on social media and calls to 13 HEALTH suggested people were cancelling holidays to Queensland, checking out of Gold Coast accommodation early and pulling children out of school.

But Mr Corben assured Northern Rivers residents the chances of an ebola outbreak are very slim.

Mr Corben believes Australia's high standard of healthcare and hygiene would make the likelihood of ebola transmissions remote.

"It's so interesting to us because it seems so exotic and foreign. That's why it's frightening to read stories about these outbreaks.



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