Cross-agency Ebola exercise a success



Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman

Minister of Health

13 November 2014

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says New Zealand is prepared to respond to a range of potential scenarios involving Ebola, with a table-top exercise held in Wellington today as part of ongoing readiness activities.

“While the risk to New Zealand remains low, we cannot guarantee that we won’t get a suspected Ebola case,” says Dr Coleman.

“It is possible that at some stage a traveller will arrive from an Ebola-affected country who develops symptoms consistent with Ebola. In that instance, despite it being much more likely that they are suffering from another illness, Ebola will need to be ruled out.

“For this reason, there is real value in exercising and testing response mechanisms for a range of possible scenarios.”

The Ministry of Health has led the latest in a range of cross-agency readiness activities. Today’s table-top exercise included representatives from Health, Immigration, Customs, Police and Ambulance.

The two scenarios were:

  1. A traveller who had recently visited an Ebola-affected country falling ill during a flight to New Zealand.
  2. A sick couple reporting to a hospital Emergency Department after having returned from West Africa.

“Feedback from those evaluating the exercise today was that we have the right systems in place and a high level of preparedness,” says Dr Coleman.

“The true value of any exercise is finding areas where we can be making improvements. I will be interested to see what has been identified and what agencies will be putting in place to address any gaps.”

Additional border screening is in place for travellers from Ebola-affected countries – 76 have been screened since early August, and none have caused concern. The health sector is well prepared and has systems for managing cases of infectious diseases.

It is important to remember that Ebola is not easy to catch - infection requires direct contact with infected body fluids such as blood - and people with Ebola are not infectious until they have symptoms.

Anyone who feels unwell after travelling overseas should call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or phone their GP or hospital prior to visiting, and tell them which countries they’ve recently visited.

Media contact: Angela Kenealy 021 220 0129 or Kirsty Taylor-Doig 021 838 372


Last updated: Friday, November 14, 2014

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