The World Health Organization (WHO) will provide technical assistance for Vietnam to carry out molecular tests for the fatal Ebola virus that has killed over 1,000 people in West Africa so far this year, a senior WHO official has said.
Masaya Kato, the WHO’s communicable disease coordinator, made the statement at a press conference held by the Vietnamese Ministry of Health’s Preventive Health Department in Hanoi on Tuesday.
Unlike many other countries that usually send samples to five laboratories associated with the WHO for testing for the deadly virus, Vietnam wants such tests to be done locally, so the global health body will give technical assistance to the country, Kato said.
Accordingly, the WHO will supply Vietnam with virus inactivation techniques needed for molecular tests for Ebola, the expert said.
Such tests are required to be carried out at medical laboratories with biological safety conditions at level 4, while Vietnam’s laboratories now meet level 3 only, Kato said.
Therefore, a number of important safety procedures will have to be applied at local labs to make them qualified in terms of biological safety, he added.
“Vietnam is required to ensure absolute safety in taking and transporting samples… due to the easy spread of the epidemic,” the WHO expert stressed.
As of August 11, Ebola virus disease (EVD) affected 1,848 people and killed 1,013 of them in four West African countries: Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, according to WHO statistics.
Thus far, no cases of Ebola infection have been reported outside these four countries, Kato said, adding that Vietnam faces a very low risk of infection.
Dr. Tran Dac Phu, director of the Vietnamese Ministry of Health’s Preventive Medicine Department, said the ministry will work closely with the WHO, international organizations, and the epidemic-hit countries in updating the disease’s developments, issuing forecasts, and taking proper precautionary measures.
The ministry will tighten control of bacterial contamination in all hospitals and train medical staff in taking, maintaining and transporting blood samples for Ebola virus tests in line with international standards, Dr. Phu said.
On Tuesday, the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health examined the local preparation work to cope with the EVD at Tan Son Nhat International Airport.
Nguyen Hong Tam, deputy head of the HCMC International Health Quarantine Center, said the center has installed four temperature sensor systems at the airport to check all visitors.
As for passengers coming from the Ebola-hit region in West Africa, they are required to fill out health declaration forms provided by the center, Tam said.
Anybody found having high temperatures will be invited to the international health quarantine room for a medical examination, he said, adding that no passengers have so far been found having any signs of contracting Ebola.
Ebola is a highly fatal virus that can kill 90 percent of infected people, the Vietnamese Ministry of Health warned, adding that Ebola infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people.
As a severe acute viral illness, the EVD is often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, according to the WHO.