Ebola Virus Fears in Australia May Lead Doctors to Wrongly Quarantine Patients with Fevers

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Government health workers administer blood tests to check for the Ebola virus
Government health workers administer blood tests to check for the Ebola virus in Kenema, Sierra Leone, June 25, 2014. Reuters

Australian hospitals were warned by leading experts in infectious diseases not to become overly concerned in detecting possible cases of the Ebola virus since it affects their ability to recognise other alarming but common diseases.

Since the start of the Ebola outbreak, health professionals have been on the lookout for signs and symptoms in patients who came from West Africa. About 1,700 people are known to be infected and the numbers continue to rise with no available cure or vaccine. The outbreak in West Africa is largest recorded, according to reports.

New South Wales department of health has issued information on the Ebola virus to state departments and clinicians. Ebola concerns have previously prompted Australia's national health department to issue information to doctors about the deadly haemorrhagic fever.

Professor Peter Collignon of infectious diseases at the Australian National University said the national government is only right to take the necessary precautions. However, he said fears of the virus may begin to overshadow reality since there are other patients who may be dying because they were not being treated as quickly.

Australia's heightened awareness of the Ebola virus may lead to cases of people with malaria returning from Africa may be wrongfully suspected of having Ebola. The patient might be subjected to quarantine while the correct treatment is delayed since Ebola is being ruled out.

The professor explained that doctors are "only human" and can become overly afraid. They may suspect an Ebola virus case too quickly. Collignon reminded health professionals that people with fevers do not necessarily have Ebola. He recalled the same fears in 2003 when the Sars virus outbreak affected several countries.

He said even if a patient was infected with Ebola in Australia, the training in Australian hospitals would mean the virus cannot spread very far. The Ebola virus is not easy to spread in countries with strong healthcare facilities and hygiene practices. For a person to be infected, he or she must have direct contact with the virus in secretions, blood, organs and other bodily fluids of an Ebola patient.

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