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Aust man cleared of quarantine in Thailand

An Australian man suspected of contracting the Ebola virus has been cleared from quarantine in Thailand as the World Health Organization steps up media awareness programs across Asia.


The 47-year-old was placed in home quarantine after travelling from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on October 17, and has now been cleared by Thai health authorities.

The unnamed man, who had been working in the DRC oil industry, was kept under close observation after recording an elevated temperature upon arrival at Bangkok international airport.

His quarantine clearance comes amid a new WHO media education campaign and concerns over travel restrictions by countries, including Australia.

The media campaign, including workshops, targets regional journalists in the reporting of any outbreak.

“They can still keep the public informed about public health and panic doesn’t become the big thing, but information the public needs is there with the media,” WHO spokesperson for Southeast Asia, New Delhi-based Vismita Gupta-Smith, told AAP.

A number of Asian countries have already designated hospitals for Ebola patient isolation and treatment, including in Thailand where four centres have been set aside in Bangkok.

The WHO is also working with ministries of public health across the region.

“There is a lot preparation that the governments are doing where they need help, WHO is helping,” Ms Gupta-Smith said.

The WHO is critical of Australia and Canada, and other countries imposing bans on visas to residents and citizens of the main Ebola-hit countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

“The WHO doesn’t recommend any kind of travel restrictions,” Ms Gupta-Smith said, noting that the moves violate the International Health Regulations (IHR) treaty.

The treaty says in a global public health emergency countries should not take actions that impede international trade or travel beyond recommendations set down by the WHO.

“(This is) a legally binding document which all countries have signed to say that to contain a disease you don’t want to affect the economy so much that that creates a secondary crisis for the effected countries,” she said.

Ms Gupta-Smith says holiday-makers should feel safe to travel into the region over the New Year period.

“Tourists to Asia really have no reason to worry. This risk assessment for Ebola to become an outbreak in Asia, as of now, is low,” she said.

The WHO says the virus has claimed at 4818 lives out of a total of 13,042 cases, although some analysts say the total is still under-reported.

There have been no cases reported in Asia.