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LatAm takes measures to ward off Ebola

Xinhua, August 9, 2014 Adjust font size:

Countries throughout Latin America on Friday took steps to prevent a potential Ebola outbreak, after the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a global warning on the spread of the disease.

Chile's Ministry of Health said it was working on a contingency plan should cases of infection be reported within its borders.

"Contingency plans are being adapted to be prepared for any possible situation related to the virus, in addition to ensuring diagnostic capacity through our Public Health Institute laboratories," the ministry said in a statement.

Authorities in the South American country said they were also working to identify any nationals abroad who may have been infected with the virus and to prepare for their safe return in keeping with the guidelines established by the WHO.

In neighboring Peru, officials issued a national health warning to step up inspections at ports, and recommended that health care workers be trained in the handling of Ebola patients, as the disease appears to be spread mainly through contact with bodily fluids, such as blood.

On the Atlantic side of South America, the region's most populous nation, Brazil, downplayed the risk of Ebola emerging there.

Brazilian Health Minister Arthur Chioro told reporters at a press conference: "There is no risk of Ebola transmission in Brazil at this time, and neither is there a recommendation from the WHO to restrict travel or trade with the affected nations."

Chioro said international organizations should unite forces to fight the spread of the disease, especially as several doctors and health care workers in Africa contracted the virus, including two U.S. citizens who were flown to Atlanta to receive treatment.

Brazil has sent 15 tons of medical aid to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the three African countries with the highest Ebola death rates.

In Central America, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has instructed health authorities to take measures to prevent the introduction of the virus into the country, said Gustavo Porras, the secretary general of the Federation of Healthcare Workers (FetSalud).

Porras added that Nicaragua already has experience in fighting the potential spread of the disease, since it has put in place procedures to detect the entry of patients infected with chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus affecting Central America.

In nearby El Salvador, Deputy Health Minister Eduardo Espinoza said authorities called for security health procedures to be put in place at ports and border points, especially the international airport in capital San Salvador, because of its high number of travelers in transit.

"El Salvador doesn't have diplomatic or trade ties with any of the four countries on Africa's west central coast, which is where the cases are arising," he said.

In Cuba, Niurka Molina, head of the Public Health Ministry's international disease control, said both travelers and Cuban doctors arriving from Africa will receive special monitoring.

She added that the monitoring will be more rigorous for those arriving from Sierra Leone and Guinea, where 363 and 286 people have died from the disease respectively.

Mexico's Health Ministry issued a travel advisory on Thursday, recommending travelers "avoid non-essential travel" to the affected African countries.

Statistics from the WHO showed that as of August 4, countries have reported 1,711 cases (1,070 confirmed, 436 probable, 205 suspect), including 932 deaths.

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