Protecting Against Pandemic Diseases

Published: Monday 22nd December 2014

Recent cases of Ebola diagnosed in the United States have highlighted the difficulty of containing infectious diseases across international borders. 

While an outbreak of a disease such as Ebola remains an unlikely threat in Australia, the University has taken prudent steps to minimise the risks posed by pandemic diseases.  A new Pandemic Diseases Policy (which incorporates the previous ACU Zoonotic Diseases Policy) has been approved by the Vice-Chancellor on 18 December 2014, with immediate effect.  Accordingly, the Zoonotic Diseases Policy has been revoked.

All ACU staff should be particularly aware of precautions regarding Ebola where staff, students, contractors or volunteers:

  • Have visited, assisted, volunteered, conducted research or were on placement in countries where Ebola is now present;
  • May be asked to work in affected countries, on behalf of governments and NGOs;
  • Are residents from affected countries and who have come in contact with infected people;
  • Are from Ebola-affected regions and may become feared or mistreated by the local community as a result of ignorance or suspicions as a possible source for the transmission of the virus;
  • Be at risk of being unknowingly exposed to Ebola while undertaking international flights on public transportation, where a fellow traveller may have been infected.

The University encourages all staff to familiarise themselves with ACU’s Pandemic Diseases Policy and take prudent steps to keep themselves and ACU students and visitors informed about disease prevention.  Senior Executive approval is needed for any travel to areas within the heart of the pandemic e.g. West Africa.

Ebola fast facts:

What is Ebola?

Ebola belongs to a group of diseases referred to as viral haemorrhagic fevers (VHF).  Ebola is a life-threatening disease and there is currently no treatment or cure.  A second trial for an Ebola vaccine, sponsored by the World Health Organisation, is underway in Switzerland - and may be rolled out for trial in West Africa shortly.  The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission. The time between when a person becomes infected with Ebola and when they may start to show symptoms can range from 2 to 21 days. However, on average, it is about 7-9 days. See symptoms.

How is it transmitted?

Ebola virus is contained in the blood and body fluids of infected people. These fluids are contagious - the more symptomatic a person is, the greater the risk of catching the virus from their body fluids.  It is also possible to become infected by touching objects contaminated by body fluids.  After touching contaminated objects, germs may be accidentally transferred into the nose, mouth or eyes, or enter the blood stream via cuts on the hands.  The virus does not spread through the air.

How can I protect myself and others?

The best way to protect yourself from Ebola is to avoid direct unprotected contact with sick people and their body fluids.  It is also important to avoid touching objects contaminated with body fluids and to practise strict attention to hygiene, e.g. wash your hands often.

Precautions whilst travelling
  • Travellers should allow additional time during arrival and departure to pass through enhanced medical screening.
  • Keep up to date with travel advice by subscribing to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smart Traveller updates. Travellers who make arrangements via ACU Campus Travel will be subscribed to International SOS advisory service, which provides medical and security alerts.
  • Download the International SOS Ebola App on your mobile for the latest news and development on Ebola, vetted by medical experts.
  • Travellers flying from countries affected by Ebola should enquire with the relevant embassies or health ministries about any requirements conditioning entry at their destination, and prepare accordingly.
  • Do not travel if you are sick.
  • Understand your role in taking preventative measures as outlined in the ACU Pandemic Diseases Policy.

Source: International SOS