Israel is gearing up to deal with the threat of the deadly Ebola virus as a second case is confirmed in the United States just days after the first diagnosed patient died in Dallas, Texas.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held a special meeting this morning (Sunday, Oct. 12) to discuss the spread of the lethal virus.
More than four thousand victims have succumbed worldwide to the disease thus far. In the United States the first victim of the virus, Liberian citizen Thomas Eric Duncan, died last Wednesday despite being treated with the experimental anti-viral medication brincidofovir.
This morning a second case of the disease was confirmed at the same medical center. A health care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who cared for Duncan until he died, has now also tested positive for the same virus, according to confirmation of tests by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia.
Duncan’s remains have been cremated, though it is not clear when, where or by whom. Potentially contaminated material has been removed from the apartment where he stayed prior to his admission to hospital, and incinerated at a hazardous material processing center.
Meanwhile, a nurse in Spain has also been diagnosed with the disease. Her pet dog was euthanized last week as a precaution, and her husband is being held in isolation at a hospital as well.
Last week Israeli ministry officials met in the prime minister’s office to discuss ways to deal with the possibility that Ebola might spread to the Jewish State. “It is a real possibility,” one doctor at an Israeli HMO told Jewish Press.com on Sunday, on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak with media.
“Look at how the disease has traveled from Africa now to Europe. As diseases go, so too might this one,” she said. “It would not be unexpected for it to reach this region — and our country — as well. It’s just wiser to plan for it and always best when and if it never happens.”
The government decided to monitor travelers who arrive in Israel from the countries most heavily affected by the disease: Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Israel’s health care system is also gearing up to provide services to anyone who may come down with the illness, or who may arrive here already infected or carrying the disease.
The prime minister summed up the meeting by saying, “The State of Israel is prepared in order to bar the possible entry of people with Ebola, as part of our effort to defend our borders against illegal migrants and terrorism. This is a global plague and we are cooperating with other countries in addition to guarding our borders; we are taking a series of steps to isolate those who are ill, if they arrive, and treat them, of course, in our healthcare system. We hope that this will not be necessary but we are prepared for any eventuality.”
Ben-Gurion International Airport Director Shmuel Zakai added, “We are beginning a very extensive deployment at all border crossings in order to locate and prevent the entry of travelers carrying the Ebola virus.”
Health Ministry Director General Prof. Arnon Afek also noted, “The healthcare system is monitoring the Ebola issue and is in contact with experts around the world. We are improving the preparedness of the healthcare system in order to be able to deal with any people stricken with Ebola should they arrive in Israel.”
In addition, three mobile clinics are being sent to hard-hit areas in response to a direct request by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the World Health Organization and a number of international aid organizations. Along with the three mobile clinics, Israel is sending a staff of medical experts who will train local medical personnel to use the equipment that is sent. They will also teach local staff to raise awareness in the local population and among others with a high potential for infection.
Hana Levi Julian