The declaration by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday of the outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa as an international public emergency prompted local health officials to implement a series of measures to prevent the possible spread to Costa Rica.
Health Ministry Director of Health Surveillance María Ethel Trejos on Friday said that one of the first steps involves immigration staff at all airports, who will identify and interview travelers arriving from countries with active cases of the virus.
“If we suspect someone might be carrying [Ebola], officials will immediately quarantine that person until the incubation period passes,” Trejos said. The incubation period is 2-21 days, and people are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus, according to the WHO.
The emergency measures designate San Rafael Hospital in Alajuela and Hospital México in San José as the two key points of operational response for anyone with Ebola symptoms.
Trejos reiterated that no Ebola cases have been detected in Costa Rica, and she asked travelers to avoid countries with outbreaks.
According to the Immigration Administration, nine Costa Ricans have traveled to Liberia and Sierra Leone this year, and 111 Ticos have traveled to Nigeria. None have Ebola symptoms.
The Ebola virus causes an acute illness characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. Those symptoms are followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, impaired kidney and liver functions, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (see infograph below). Lab findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.
According to the WHO, as of Aug. 6, the cumulative number of Ebola cases in the four hardest-hit African countries – Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria – stands at 1,779, including 961 deaths.