Lebanon faces higher Ebola risk: minister

The official stressed that Lebanon should be ‘exceptionally cautious’ because there are many expats living in infected countries

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Lebanese expats living in countries stricken by the Ebola virus put the country at a high risk, Lebanon’s health minister said at a press conference on Monday.

“Lebanon is more prone than other countries, because there are thousands of Lebanese expats in infected countries,” Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said at a press conference.

The official stressed that Lebanon should be “exceptionally cautious” because there are many Lebanese businesspeople who travel back and forth to West Africa, therefore the country should take “exceptional measures” to fight the disease.

“Lebanon receives four flights from Morocco every week, one daily flight from Ethiopia... and three weekly [Middle East Airlines] MEA flights from Nigeria,” the minister added.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Monday that Nigeria was declared free of Ebola, with no newly recorded cases during the past 42 days.

The official noted that the health ministry cannot enforce the preventive measure without the support of other organizations in the country.

He said several measure have been taken in collaboration with embassies, hospitals and airports to stop the disease from entering the country.

“We contacted Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and requested that Lebanese embassies in infected countries test visa applicants for Ebola,” the minister said.

Such measures will also apply to ships coming to Lebanon from West African countries.

Similarly, travelers who have flight layovers in an infected country before heading to Lebanon will also be required to fill an application to state whether they have been experiencing any Ebola symptoms.

If these travelers are not experiencing any symptoms, the Health Ministry will follow up with them in case any symptoms start showing after their reach Lebanese soil.

Meanwhile, if the travelers report any symptoms, they will be tested at the airport. Those who are infected will be quarantined and transferred to a hospital in Beirut.

According to the official, the hospital is equipped with a quarantine facility to house Ebola carriers. He said that the American University of Beirut’s Medial Center will be announcing a similar unit soon.

Faour noted that all hospitals with more than 100 beds should install quarantine units within the coming three weeks.

“This is not optional whether they want to participate in this or not, the safety and health of the Lebanese people is at stake,” Faour said.

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