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Austria 'not prepared' for Ebola

The Local · 28 Aug 2014, 09:33

Published: 28 Aug 2014 09:33 GMT+02:00

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“Austria doesn’t have a contingency plan or an appropriate isolation unit to treat anybody suspected or confirmed of having the disease,” Dr Andreas Karlsböck said.

He added that outgoing Health Minister Alois Stöger had "told an untruth" when he said that precautions had been taken.

Karlsböck said that Austria lacks a dedicated bio-secure lab and an admission station for highly infectious patients. In the past, the government has refused to fund the costs of building such a lab.

"Austrians and people living in Austria are therefore dependent on the goodwill of foreign laboratories, both for a diagnosis and providing specialist equipment - which potentially carries enormous risk for all involved”, Karlsböck warned.

However, Viennese tropical medicine specialist Dr Herwig Kollaritsch believes there is little chance of cases of Ebola appearing in Austria, due to the very low amount of travel between Sierra Leone or Liberia to the Central European region.

There have been false alarms in several European countries, including the quarantining of 600 people in a German jobcentre for two hours last week after a west African woman collapsed with Ebola-like symptoms, which turned out to be malaria.

Germany is well prepared for potential Ebola cases, with Hamburg's university clinic establishing a bio-secure unit for treatment.

However, experts say that while sporadic cases are possible outside Africa, the risk of broader contagion is low because higher standards of healthcare and hygiene would make it easier to contain.

Nearly 1,500 people have died so far in Africa, out of more than 2,600 cases, since the disease was first identified in Guinea in February before spreading to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria, according to the World Health Organisation.

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