Vietnam may send suspected samples to the US for Ebola testing

VietNamNet Bridge - Vietnam is not eligible for bio-security to test Ebola so the country may send samples of suspected cases to the US, said Professor Nguyen Tran Hien, director of the Central Institute for Hygiene and Epidemiology.


According to the announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO), the risk of Ebola virus transmission from person to person across borders is high for the countries bordering the Ebola-hit countries in Africa such as Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. However, the risk is average for other countries in Africa and low for other continents.

Professor Hien said that the risk of Ebola entering Vietnam is low because the transmission mechanism of Ebola is direct contact with blood, secretions, and body fluids of patients or infected animals.

"The virus is not transmitted through the respiratory or gastrointestinal system (unless eating uncooked infected meat). Only patients with symptoms are contagious. However, male patients after recovery can carry the virus in semen for seven weeks," Professor Hien said.

Technically, Prof. Hien said that Vietnam can afford to diagnose Ebola virus but does not have sufficient equipment for biosafety to perform Ebola test in Vietnam. The tests must be carried out in a laboratory with the level four - the highest level of biosafety -- while Vietnam’s laboratories are only three level. Only nine countries worldwide have laboratories that are eligible for diagnosis of this dangerous virus.

Since March this year, the number of Ebola cases in Africa has increased sharply in both number and geographic scope. Starting in Guinea with 49 cases and 29 deaths, it has gradually spread to other countries such as Nigeria, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The number of cases and deaths has increased weekly. At present there are nearly 1,800 cases, including 200 medical staff.

On August 8, the WHO declared a global state of emergency for Ebola epidemic, when the death toll rose to approximately 1,000 and the epidemic map had Nigeria.

Vietnam has not yet recorded any cases, but it has deployed special measures to control the disease.

On August 13 the Ministry of Health will train staff of hospitals in the northern region on the prevention and treatment of Ebola. A similar course will be held in HCM City for hospitals in the southern region on August 15.

U.S. CDC Supports Vietnam’s Emergency Operations Center

In response to the WHO determination of an international emergency regarding the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the Ministry of Health activated their emergency operations center (EOC) for a preparedness response with support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) and WHO. U.S. CDC has provided technical and financial support to strengthen the EOC to better prepare for public health emergencies and prevent diseases from spreading in Vietnam, the region, and the world.  

As part of the U.S. Global Health Security Agenda launched in February 2014, and in partnership with Vietnam, U.S. CDC has provided training and support to government leaders and public health workers to better respond in case of a disease outbreak emergency, including upgrading laboratory equipment and information systems to detect outbreaks faster.

“Working together is a very important part of protecting Vietnam and the world from disease outbreaks and with Global Health Security support from U.S. CDC, WHO, and other international organizations, we have strengthened our EOC and enhanced our ability to better detect and respond to disease outbreaks, such as the current Ebola outbreak,” said Dr. Tran Dac Phu, Director General of the General Department of Preventive Medicine, who leads the EOC in Vietnam.

Last year, Vietnam participated in a 6-month Global Health Security demonstration project with the U.S. CDC, WHO, the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and USAID to enhance its capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to disease outbreaks.

Drastic measures taken to keep out deadly Ebola virus


Vietnam is doing all it can to prevent the Ebola virus from entering the country, said deputy minister of health Nguyen Thanh Long at a meeting of the National Steering Committee for Ebola Virus Prevention in Hanoi on August 11.

"No case has been detected so far in our country. However, there is a risk of the virus entering Vietnam through foreign visitors, especially those returning from West Africa," Long said.

Even though the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently declared Ebola an international public health emergency,Long said that people should not worry too much about contracting the disease.

"It is lucky that trade exchange between Vietnam and the four countries with Ebola in West Africa is not high as the virus is transmitted by direct contact with tissue, blood and bodily fluids of infected animals or people," he said.

The deputy health minister warned that Vietnamese people should not go to Africa, especially areas where Ebola has broken out, and advised people to practice good personal hygiene.

Currently there are 15 Vietnamese citizens in Liberia, including 10 in Ebola-stricken areas. However, all of them remain in good health, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Prime Minister asked provinces and cities to draw up disease prevention plans and set up quarantine areas. Health quarantine and supervision measures have been strengthened at all international border gates, where passengers arriving from West African areas with Ebola outbreaks will fill out medical declaration forms.

Vietnam to halt tours

The Vietnam Tourism Administration has advised all operators to temporary halt all tours to countries heavily affected by the Ebola virus such as Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

The administration has called on tour operators to provide enough information to tourists and travellers on preventing Ebola and following medical check-ups as requested by quarantine and health officials.

All hotels and guest houses must increasingly monitor the health of those who stay there, especially international tourists, and provide timely information to relevant agencies if there are any suspected cases.

Ebola has killed nearly 970 people and officials believe there have been suspected cases in Southeast Asia but so far, there have been no official confirmations.

Noi Bai airport quarantine intensified amid growing Ebola virus concern

Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long on August 11 inspected the health quarantine work at Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport, a major gateway of northern Vietnam to the world, as the Ebola virus disease is raging through West Africa.

Long said the disease situation is getting complicated with growing numbers of the infected and dead and likely to enter Vietnam.

The Ministry of Health has ordered the application of medical declarations at all international border gates, he said, adding those who have to fill the documents are passengers boarding flights from affected areas in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, among others.

A representative from the Centre for International Health Quarantine of Hanoi said special teams were set up to supervise all international flights to the place, adding that they have devised measures in case there are suspect cases of the disease.

Also on August 11, the health ministry issued a decision on activating an emergency operations centre (EOC), which is assigned to gather, analyse and share information on the situation of emergency diseases with central and local agencies as well as domestic and international organisations and individuals.

It is also in charge of outlining plans and coordinating the operation of sub-committees under the ministry’s Steering Committee for Prevention and Control of Dangerous and Emerging Diseases.

At a meeting in Hanoi the same day, Tran Dac Phu, head of the ministry’s Department of Preventive Medicine, said Vietnam has not recorded any Ebola-infected cases so far, and warned of observable risks of the disease in the country through arrivals from Africa.

The ministry has requested all relevant agencies and provincial People’s Committees to strengthen supervision, especially at border gates, and ready equipment, he added.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.

It then spreads in the community through human-to-human transmission, with infection resulting from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids.

The disease is a severe acute viral illness often characterised by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

On August 8, the WHO declared a state of international emergency over the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and reported 961 deaths of the disease.