Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is now classified as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern although the health risk to seafarers remains low.
In a press release of 17 July 2019 the WHO has declared the EVD outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The decision is based on the recent geographical expansion of the virus including the first confirmed case in Goma, a city of almost two million people on the border with Rwanda.
The WHO has assessed the public health risk to be very high at the national level and high at the regional level. The health risk to seafarers and on a global level is still considered low, due to the inaccessibility of the affected areas and its remoteness to major international ports.
According to the WHO’s latest numbers as of 21 July 2019:
Vaccination is in its infancy with no licensed vaccine presently available, hence the focus is on the prevention of infection. It is unlikely that seafarers will be exposed to potential infection, but Members and clients should consider the following recommendations and pass such on to their vessels:
Practical steps to minimize the possible transmission include:
The risks to seafarers in ports in countries in which EVD is known to exist is not particularly high if the necessary precautions are in place and complied with, to secure the vessel and to minimize the potential exposure.
The WHO continues to advise against the application of any travel of trade restrictions to the DRC. However, some port health authorities may, as a precautionary measure, be in a heightened state of alert in order to identify crew displaying relevant symptoms.
Members and clients trading to ports in West and Central Africa, and in the DRC in particular, are advised to monitor the situation closely by consulting webpages maintained by the WHO and other relevant authorities as well as obtaining relevant advice from their local agents well before arrival at the next port of call.
We would like to thank The Marine Advisory Medical Service in the UK for their advice and recommendations.
Relevant sources of information