19 Aug 2014

New powers to prevent Ebola outbreak

3:16 pm on 19 August 2014

Public health officials in New Zealand are being given extra powers to hold planes and ships at the border if there is concern that a person on board is infected with the deadly Ebola virus.

The outbreak of the disease in West Africa - the worst on record - has killed nearly 1000 people; the mortality rate is about 60 percent.

Jo Goodhew.

Jo Goodhew. Photo: NATIONAL PARTY

Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew said although the risk of Ebola reaching New Zealand is extremely low, the World Health Organisation has advised all countries to take precautions to prevent the outbreak spreading.

The Cabinet has voted to include Ebola as a quarantinable infectious disease.

A routine health clearance by captains or masters of craft must inform border health officials of any sickness on board, allowing them to determine if a quarantine is required. The changes would take effect by the end of August.

The WHO says there is a very low risk of catching Ebola on a plane, because the virus is spread by contact with bodily fluids, rather than by breathing it in.

However, concerns over air travel have been heightened because the outbreak in Nigeria was traced back to an ill traveller who flew in from Liberia.