Ebola outbreak: Malta rejects ship carrying suspected case

Media caption,
The BBC takes a look at the scale of the challenge the Ebola outbreak presents to modern medicine

Maltese authorities have turned away a ship travelling from Guinea to Ukraine over fears one person on board may be infected with the Ebola virus.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the captain of the ship had made a request for assistance for a sick Filipino passenger on board.

The decision to turn the ship away was "morally and legally correct", Mr Muscat said.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has now killed more than 2,600 people.

Mr Muscat said permission for the ship to dock was refused as the patient's symptoms were similar to those of Ebola.

Patrol boats were sent to ensure the vessel did not enter Maltese waters.

After being turned away, the MV Western Copenhagen is believed to have headed towards the Italian island of Sicily.

"It could be a false alarm, but we are morally correct to take this decision because we cannot endanger our health system, especially when we don't know the magnitude of the problem," Mr Muscat said, according to the Reuters news agency.

The current outbreak is the world's worst of the deadly disease on record, with officials warning that more than 20,000 people could ultimately be infected.

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no proven vaccine or cure

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