Thursday May 24, 2018
This advisory provides an update on Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) as a result of the current outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo, the WHO Emergency Committee meeting convened under the International Health Regulations and increasing media reporting on the situation.
The risk to New Zealand is Low.
Risk to New Zealand
The risk to New Zealand from EVD is low due to the mode of transmission of the virus (direct contact with infected bodily fluids), the large distance between New Zealand and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the low number of travellers coming to New Zealand from DRC, increased exit screening occurring in the DRC, and the rapid response of DRC Government and the WHO to the outbreak, which is likely to contain it.
While the risk of a traveller bringing Ebola to New Zealand is low, public messaging and awareness established following the 2014-16 EVD outbreak is still relevant. The key messages encourages any travellers who becomes ill within 28 days from any country to seek medical advice and ensure their GP or Healthline know their travel history. Our public health units also have well established protocols to respond to any traveller who is already ill at the border.
Due to the low risk to New Zealand, no additional measures are required at the border beyond the current screening processes for unwell travellers. Health will continue to monitor the situation and advise border agencies should the risk to New Zealand change.
WHO Advice on Travel
WHO’s current assessment is that the global level of risk from the current outbreak is low and continues to advise against any restriction on trade and travel.
Under the International Health Regulations (IHR), to which New Zealand is a signatory, countries are required to ensure that any measures imposed in response to a global outbreak are not unnecessarily restrictive of international traffic and trade.
The imposing of travel restrictions should only be considered in exceptional circumstances and in consultation with the WHO and affected countries.
The Ministry assesses emerging health threats and national security system issues on a weekly basis and can respond to an emerging issue in between these briefings. Health is monitoring the outbreak situation, conducting risk assessments, responding to requests for information or assistance and issuing advice to relevant stakeholders. Health will also liaise with the WHO as required.
This is the ninth outbreak of Ebola virus disease over the last four decades in the DRC, with the most recent one occurring in May 2017. The situation continues to evolve and further detailed information, including situation reports and information on case numbers, are available on the WHO website.
A comprehensive and rapid response has been launched by the WHO, DRC Ministry of Health and coordinating partners and humanitarian response agencies. This includes the deployment of clinical case management, public health and epidemiological support and incident management team capability. A ring vaccination campaign targeting contacts of cases is a significant focus of attention and is widely covered in the media.
New Zealand has confirmed to WHO we are not considering the deployment of the New Zealand Medical Assessment Team (NZMAT). The rational for this is the clinical case management has requested French speaking, logistically self-supported teams with previous experience of Ebola response in order to provide clinical case management. NZMAT is configured for self-sufficient Sudden Onset Disaster response within the South Pacific and does not have logistical support to respond to highly infectious outbreaks.
MFAT intend to issue a Formal Message to posts Tuesday 22 May 2018 outlining international engagement.
Risk in the DRC and nearby Region
As of 18/05/2018, WHO considers the public health risk at the DRC national level to be very high and the regional level to be high, whilst the global risk remains Low.
Due to the serious nature of the disease, insufficient epidemiological information and the delay in detection of initial cases, it is difficult to assess the magnitude and geographical extent of the outbreak.
A confirmed case in Mbandaka, a large urban centre located on major national and international river, road and air transport axes increase the risk both of local propagation and further spread within DRC and to neighbouring countries.
On 8 May 2018, the WHO was notified by the DRC Ministry of Health of two confirmed cases of EVD. WHO and DRC, as well as international partners, are responding using a model that was successful in resolving a similar outbreak in 2017.
International travellers to the central Africa region are advised to check the latest MFAT travel advice on the Safe Travel website.
A range of advice for public health professionals on Ebola is available on the Ministry of Health Website.
For more information, please contact the Communicable Diseases team at the Ministry of Health.