Ebola, MERS and Bird Flu 'a worry'

Ebola, MERS and Bird Flu are three nasty viruses that are just a plane ride away.

Ebola, MERS and Bird Flu.

Those three nasty viruses are "worrying" infectious disease specialists in Australia.

Sanjaya Senanayake, associate Professor of medicine at the Australian National University, said it's unlikely the Ebola virus outbreak which started in West Africa in March would reach Australia, although every virus is just a plane ride away.

"It could make its way to Australia by air travel," he said.

"We know that every year approximately two billion people travel across large geographical distances and at least one billion of those will travel into different countries.

"We've seen with this Ebola outbreak that it has been brought into Nigeria through air travel so it's a possibility.

"But we have a very good public health infrastructure in Australia."

Dr Senanayake said in terms of global infections, Ebola, MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and Bird Flu or avian influenza are all a concern.

"[Besides Ebola] the two that would worry me at the moment are MERS, which has been consistently causing cases since 2012.

"Bird Flu is the other one that I worry about.

"Bird flu has been around for quite a few years but it's still there and it has quite a high mortality rate and if that ever develops the potential to effectively transmit itself between people then it will be a serious global concern."

Dr Glenn Marsh, a CSIRO research scientist, works in a high containment laboratory in Geelong, Victoria, as part of a global effort to find a way to treat Ebola, said diseases such as Ebola, Bird Flu and MERS can "come out of nowhere".

"Ebola outbreaks just occur, we have no way of predicting when they are going to occur," he said.

This year's Ebola outbreak, the worst ever, has killed at least 887 people in the west Africa region, according to the UN World Health Organisation.

New figures from the UN show that between July 31 and August 1, 61 deaths were reported from from Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.


Ebola virus disease (EVD)

- Formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever

- Fatality rate can reach 90 per cent

- The current outbreak is killing between 50 per cent and 60 per cent of victims

- There is no vaccine or cure but patients have a better chance of survival if they receive early treatment

- Transmitted by contact with the blood and body fluids of infected people

- Initial flu-like symptoms are followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding

- Incubation period is two to 21 days

- Patients are not contagious during the incubation period but become contagious once they begin to show symptoms

- Men who have recovered from the illness can still spread the virus to their partner through their semen for up to seven weeks

- Ebola outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests

- It first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks, in Nzara, Sudan, and in a village situated near the Ebola River, in Democratic Republic of Congo, from where the virus gets its name

- Fruit bats are thought to be the virus' natural host

- In most countries in west Africa the government has advised people not to consume bush meat, including fruit bats

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