Health workers in protective gear wheel a stretcher into a hospital with one of two Spaniards who were repatriated from Liberia, shortly after their arrival in Madrid. Photo: Ignacio Gil

Cape Town - Ports of entry have been placed on high alert for possible cases of Ebola, particularly on ships arriving in Cape Town from west Africa.

Port authorities met representatives of the Airports Company of SA and a number of airlines at the Cape Town International Airport on Thursday to discuss measures put in place to deal with any cases of the virus.

The province’s readiness to deal with possible cases was also discussed at a mini-symposium held on the Stellenbosch University’s Tygerberg campus later on Thursday.

The meeting at the airport discussed the role that airlines and port authorities would play in the event of a case being reported on an in-coming flight, Ewald Bonzet, the provincial Department of Health’s project manager for environmental and port health, told the symposium.

He said the biggest concern was at the harbour.

“To me Cape Town Harbour is a bigger risk than the airport because we get a lot of ships from west Africa. The travelling time is between eight and 14 days.”

Vessels would have to ask for a pratique, a licence given to a ship to enter port. To secure this, ships were required to give the assurance that they were free of contagious disease three days before docking if Cape Town was their first point of call in the country.

Bonzet said vessels coming from west Africa were a high priority. A list of crew members and passengers would be requested. If there was a positive case of Ebola, the ship would have to be disinfected before it could proceed.

In the event of a suspected case on an aircraft, a captain would inform the airport’s control tower which would notify the port health office. “(That) plane will be directed to a demarcated parking area where a port officer will ascertain whether the passenger meets the criteria for Ebola.”

In suspected cases, the department would ensure stringent tests for people who had travelled to a country where Ebola had broken out or had had contact with an infected person. Magda Mocke, of the city’s hospital infection prevention control unit, said four beds were available in an isolation ward.

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Cape Times