Quarantine officers with the entry-exit inspection and quarantine bureau at the Beijing Capital International Airport give body temperature tests to four passengers from Nigeria on Thursday. They all passed the test and were allowed through the border. (Photo/Xinhua)
China acts as killer virus takes heavy toll in West Africa, reports Shan Juan in Beijing.
China is on guard against the Ebola virus and well prepared to respond to any threat from it, health officials say as global concerns mount over the outbreak in West Africa.
Dong Xiaoping, deputy director of the emergency response division at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the nation is far from the areas affected and there are no direct flights to these countries.
"The possibility of Ebola entering China remains remote, although it does exist," Dong said. "But a mass outbreak in China can be ruled out, given the capacity for responding to it here."
The latest Ebola outbreak, the largest of its kind and the first in West Africa, has claimed more than 1,000 lives in four countries.
Last week, the World Health Organization declared the epidemic a "public health emergency of international concern".
Dong said, "If there are isolated cases, we will be capable of 'contact tracing' and further stopping the spread of the virus."
Healthcare professionals and hospitals also stand ready to treat patients and carry out infection control measures if the need arises, he said.
Ebola virus disease is one of the world's most virulent diseases. The infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people.
The latest outbreak, which started in February in Guinea in West Africa, has since spread to neighboring Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria, whose health systems are too weak to handle the scourge.
The WHO warned that the possible consequences of any global spread of Ebola are serious in view of its virulence and has called for a coordinated international response to stop and reverse any such potentiality.
Response plan in place
China's top health authority, the National Health and Family Planning Commission, issued an Ebola hemorrhagic fever response plan on July 31.
Under the plan, local medical institutions must use an online system to report any confirmed or suspected Ebola cases directly to the commission within two hours. The requirement makes it one of the most stringent of its kind involving infectious diseases.
Other key information provided cover clinical symptoms, virus screening and even the disposal of the bodies of infected victims.
"The Ebola response plan has been distributed among all stakeholders, including the health, transportation and customs departments," said Song Shuli, the commission's spokeswoman.
Song said the response includes checks and preparations in bio-safety and security that involved mass events like the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The country already has in place action plans to deal with Ebola, even though there have been no outbreaks of it nor sample virus strains for research, she said.
He Xiong, deputy director of the Beijing CDC, agreed.
"A sound health emergency preparedness plan enabled by multidepartment collaboration is in place in China as a legacy of the country's response to major threats like SARS in 2003," He said.