• France's news in English

Ebola: What is the risk of it coming to France?

The Local · 6 Aug 2014, 16:27

Published: 06 Aug 2014 16:27 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

On two occasions last week it appeared the deadly Ebola virus had come to France, however both incidents proved to be false alerts. After the two scares The Local takes a closer look at how real the risks are of a French outbreak. 

How worried should we be about an Ebola outbreak in France?

Thankfully, at the moment anyway, we needn't be too concerned. The main reason for this is the sheer distance separating France and the Ebola-hit regions in West Africa, which currently are Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Since the disease evolves relatively quickly, most people carrying the virus would be detected before they are even allowed on a plane. If a person flies from a high-risk zone, they are asked to keep a close eye on their condition when they arrive in France and to report any symptoms to authorities. The risk of transmission during the incubation period is considered to be low.

But does this mean Ebola is only a plane-ride away?

Yes and no. Although a case of Ebola could travel undetected on a flight, the main international airlines have already prepared for such a scenario. Not to mention France’s flagship-carrier Air France which screens passengers for the virus before they board a flight leaving from high-risk Ebola areas, like Conakry and Freetown in Sierra Leone. The screening includes taking passengers’ temperature and getting them to fill out questionnaires. “They are only given their boarding card if no medical symptoms are present,” the airline has said in a statement.

Should someone carrying the Ebola virus still get on board, there are precautions for that too. Air France crew have received instructions on how to isolate a person who is suspected of being infected, for example reserving a toilet for that person, among other measures. The airline has also ensured its flights are equipped with face masks, rubber gloves and alcohol-gel. Air France also keeps a record of anyone on the flight who might have been in contact with an infected person.

Since Ebola is not an airborne virus, but requires the direct contact of body fluids, such as sweat, blood, saliva and vomit, the chances of a transmission of Ebola between passengers are low.

If it does hit, is France prepared?                 

Yes, or at least according to Health Minister Marisol Touraine. She says France has both the equipment and staff to be able to adequately prevent the virus from spreading. Specific hospitals in every region have been designated to deal with cases of Ebola and in each of those, isolation wards will be set up to keep victims of the virus separate away from other patients. A laboratory is also on stand-by to carry out tests as soon as a suspected case is detected. 

What other precautions has France taken?

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued an advisory warning against any unnecessary travel to the countries currently hit by the outbreak. Or, if a French citizen still needs to go there, then they are recommended to stay away from the Ebola epicentres.

For those who can’t stay away from the Ebola-hit regions, the ministry has issued a list of guidelines when it comes to food and hygiene, advising anyone from eating or handling any meat from wild animals (bushmeat) and to always wash their hands. It also says to avoid all contact with people displaying a high fever, who are bleeding, or have an upset stomach.

Following a visit to a high-risk area, anyone returning to France is asked to take their temperature on a daily basis for a period of at least three weeks. Should a person display a fever of 38.5°C or over, it is treated as a suspected case of Ebola and the person must immediately report to the authorities.

And how deadly is Ebola?

Very. Since February it has killed nearly 900 people in West Africa. According to the World Health Organization, an outrbreak of the virus has a fatality rate of up to 90 percent. Since the virus was discovered almost 40 years ago, most Ebola outbreaks have been reported in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near rainforests.

Story continues below…

The virus is transmitted by wild animals, such as fruit bats, and in between humans through body fluids.

An Ebola-infected patient will require excellent intensive care in order to survive since the virus attacks multiple organ systems at the same time.Today, there is no licensed cure or vaccine available against Ebola, but two American aid workers infected by the virus while in West Africa are reportedly recovering after receiving an experimental serum.

For more information on Ebola, you can visit the World Health Organisation's website by CLICKING HERE

by Louise Nordstrom

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Millionaire Riviera hotel boss kidnapped in broad daylight
The city of Nice where the millionaire was bundled into a car infront of shocked onlookers. Photo: AFP

The millionaire head of a luxury hotel in the French Riviera resort of Cannes was kidnapped in front of shocked onlookers in the middle of the day on Monday.

Where exactly in France are Calais migrants being sent?
Photo: AFP

Here's where the 8,000 migrants in Calais are heading.

The annoying questions only a half French, half British person can answer
Photo: Beery/Flickr/AFP

Being half French, half British is means you get asked a lot of questions (and some of them can be a little annoying.)

Migrants bussed out of Calais Jungle to all corners of France
All photos: AFP

Hundreds of migrants are being bussed across France on Monday ahead of the demolition of the Jungle camp.

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
A Prophet. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

Looking for something to watch?

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part Two
Rust and Bone. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

The newest French films you need to see before you die (or alternatively when you get some spare time).

Election Watch
Presidential hopeful reckons a pain au chocolat is 10 cents

So France happily takes the pastry out of him.

French ministry of defence officials die in plane crash
Screengrab: eddydeg/Twitter

The French Ministry of Defence officials were killed on Monday when a light aircraft went down on the island of Malta.

Revealed: The ten most stolen cars in France
A Smart car in Paris. Photo: JR_Paris/Flickr

Thieves in France are getting a taste for luxury cars, it seems.

Analysis - France migrant crisis
Migrant crisis won't end with Calais 'Jungle' closure
All Photos: AFP

The Jungle camp may be being cleared but this won't be the end of the migrant crisis in France.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available