IMO joins Ebola travel task force

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has joined the World Health Organization’s international ad hoc Ebola Travel and Transport Task Force as part of a global effort to contain the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease and provide a coordinated international response for the travel and tourism sector.

The task force was established in August as way to monitor the situation and provide timely information to the sector on the unprecedented outbreak in West Africa, as well as to travelers.

IMO, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) have now all joined forces with the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Airports Council International (ACI), International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in the Travel and Transport Task Force.

IMO says it is also working with other United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations to monitor the situation and provide timely information in response to the outbreak of the disease.

IMO issued a circular letter to its members this week providing information and guidance, based on recommendations developed by WHO, on the precautions to be taken in order to minimize risks to seafarers, passengers and others on board ships from EVD. The circular advised that any person with an illness consistent with the Ebola or who have come into contact with a person with EVD should not be allowed to join a ship.

The WHO declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on August 8 in accordance with the International Health Regulations (2005).

The current outbreak is believed to have originated in Guinea in December 2013 and spread to nearby Liberia and Sierra Leone. Cases have also been confirmed in Nigeria, including 3 reported cases confirmed in Nigeria’s oil hub of Port Harcourt, which is particularly alarming as it reveals multiple high-risk opportunities for transmission of the virus to others, WHO says.

According to the latest data from WHO, the EBV outbreak has infected 3685 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with 1841 deaths. Another 21 cases have been confirmed in Nigeria, including 7 deaths.

The IMO reminds its members that EVD is not spread through the air, rather transmission requires direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected living or dead persons or animals, all unlikely scenarios for seafarers, travelers and others onboard ships, at least under normal scenarios.

Symptoms of EVD include include fever, weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, and in some cases, bleeding. The disease has an incubation period of two to 21 days.

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