10/14/2014, 00.00
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Ebola, WHO Asia-Pacific: Maximum alert against infection

The Director-General Margaret Chan calls on the nations of the east and the Pacific Ocean to "strengthen" their defenses. The region has exposed its weakness to major epidemics, such as SARS and H5N1. Preventive measures are crucial, otherwise the system runs the risk of "collapse." Philippine President: concern for the 10 million migrant workers.

Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Margaret Chan has urged the nations of the East and the Pacific Ocean to "strengthen" the defenses against the risk of an outbreak of Ebola. In her appeal launched yesterday, the senior official warned that the world could be at risk and no country should believe itself protected from outbreaks of the disease that has killed thousands of people in recent months.

1.8 billion people live in the Asia-Pacific region, which has revealed its weakness to the outbreaks of major epidemics in the past which later spread on a global scale.  These include SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and the avian flu (H5N1). However, so far there have been no official cases of Ebola virus reported, which is instead spreading with increasing rapidity in many parts of West Africa.

In a personal message sent to the annual meeting of healthcare professionals in the Western Pacific, Chan warns that "this outbreak highlights as one of the most deadly pathogens on earth can take advantage of any weakness in the health infrastructure." The head of WHO adds that "in times of crisis" you cannot "build" systems of prevention, which may "collapse"; a danger even higher in a historical period when health emergencies occur with "increasing frequency and strength".

To date, over 4 thousand people have died from the Ebola virus in seven countries in the world, since it developed in West Africa earlier this year. The WHO warning was released to at least 37 nations and territories - including China, other Asian nations, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, parts of South-East Asia and the Pacific Islands - including in the Western Pacific.

The local WHO chief Shin Young-soo said that the occurrence of at least one case in the region is  "almost certain" to the high volume of traffic of people for business and tourism. "If Ebola affects the region - he adds - the consequences could be enormous ... We have to face the challenges in an open way, to effectively counter the disease."

In his speech to the WHO meeting in Manila, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III confirmed the alert status of their country, which has a population of 100 million inhabitants: "For the Philippines in particular - stressed the head of State - the fact that there are at least 10 million citizens who live and work abroad makes this kind of epidemics a source of major concern".


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