• Sweden's news in English

'There's no risk of Ebola spreading in Europe'

Oliver Gee · 12 Nov 2014, 16:09

Published: 12 Nov 2014 16:09 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit
It is a grey morning in Solna, northern Stockholm, and Dutch native Dr Marc Sprenger has a full day ahead. This is no surprise - he is the director of the European Centre for Disease and Control, which has spent months trying to keep one step ahead of the Ebola spread. The Local snagged him for a chat before he attended the centre's daily round table meeting.
So for anyone out of the loop - what exactly is going on with Ebola?
Ebola is a very severe viral infection transmitted via contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is really sick and suffering. You can become infected even if the person has passed away. Unfortunately, the majority of the people with Ebola will die - not just because it's a severe disease, but because there isn't adequate medical treatment in the West African countries affected.
As there's no specific drug to fight against Ebola, you need good and classic hospital treatment to survive. This is what you see in Europe, if someone is repatriated, they mostly survive. This isn't because of a wonder drug, this is just good treatment. 

Dr Marc Sprenger in his Solna office. Photo: The Local
Ebola is barely out of the headlines. What do you think of the European media's response to the crisis - scaremongering or a public service?
That's not so easy to answer. The right information is really important, but it's difficult because there are reports on every patient that has fever saying that they "could be infected with Ebola". 
In Europe, as of today, we have only had nine cases. Eight of these were from repatriated people, and only one was infected - the nurse in Madrid. Every morning we review what was in the news and discuss the suspected cases. There are maybe ten reported cases in Europe each day that we hear about and no one tests positive. It's largely an exaggeration. 
But, media attention can also be good. In Holland, where I'm from, they report about how West Africa needs help and how people can help in fund-raising. The Swedish media has also been good at this.
So Europeans shouldn't be scared of a Hollywood-style disease outbreak?
In the movies, you'll just see airborne infections - and it's those kind of things that should scare you. Sars was airborne infection disease. This is not. There is no risk in Europe that this disease will spread. It could happen that some cases show up, but then we know what to do - isolation and good treatment. Ebola will not spread in Europe. Absolutely not. 
You mentioned the nurse in Madrid who became infected but survived. How has Europe learned from this case?
Firstly, it's fantastic that Spain has repatriated people. As for the case itself, I haven't seen an official or unofficial report, but we know that the nurse was infected - that's a matter of fact. She was wearing protective equipment, but it's not just about wearing it, you have to be trained how to use it exactly. We learnt that we need to pay even more attention to training people how to use the equipment. That's why we developed a tutorial on the matter. 
Experts at the daily round table meeting. Photo: The Local
How important is the ECDC - and Sweden - in helping fight the crisis?
The ECDC is supporting Africa by sending experts, but they are under the flag of the United Nations. We do a lot of work here advising governments what to do about travel and preparedness. We discuss diagnostics so labs are equipped to be able to confirm Ebola. We develop protocols about exit and entry screening. I should add that I am very happy that Stockholm's Arlanda airport isn't screening every passenger. It just doesn't make sense.
What are the most important things to consider going forward?
Europe needs to be prepared. We need to mobilize health care workers who are willing to work in West Africa. We need to guarantee that they can return to Europe, and that we can provide them with support without stigmatization. You know what happened in the States - they wanted to quarantine everyone returning from West Africa. That's no motivation for health workers.
Story continues below…
We need to monitor them to ensure they are healthy, and if they develop fever then we need to take care of them and isolate them - and not a moment before. If we do that, there is no risk in Europe.

Healthcare workers spray disinfectant in Sierra Leone. Photo: TT
If you had to look into your crystal ball, what will happen next in Europe and West Africa?
I know there are several vaccines in the works, but these things take time. You can't just make a vaccine, fill vials, and start injecting people. You need to run tests, check for side effects, and much more. There were suggestions that there would be a vaccine by Christmas, but this won't be the case. I hope that we can have something before the summer. 
I think that there will be still several new cases to come, but that the numbers will start to go down. The latest news has been positive, Liberia is getting more stable, for example, but I'm not that optimistic that it will disappear anytime soon. 
My forecast for Europe is that we will see only a few sporadic cases and not a spread. I'm much more unsure about Africa. 

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Oliver Gee (oliver.gee@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Presented by Invest Stockholm
How Stockholm's cold climate boosts creativity
Photo: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se

Do long, dark winters actually make Swedes more creative and more productive? We spoke to Stockholm startups to find out.

Meet Sweden's lonely Donald Trump voter
A Donald Trump campaign button. Photo: Rogelio V Solis/AP

The Local talks to an American Donald Trump supporter on what it is like living in progressive stronghold Sweden.

Sweden to keep record-low interest rate in 2017
Sweden's landmark negative interest rate will continue towards 2018. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

The Swedish central bank said that it will take longer than expected to reach its inflation target.

Presented by Stockholm University
9 unexpected study programmes at Stockholm University
Photo: Niklas Björling

Did you know Stockholm University offers 75 master's programmes taught in English? And some of them are programmes you won't find anywhere else...

Creepy clown messes with the wrong dog walker in Sweden
Not the clown in the story. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

A dog helped its owner fight off a creepy clown chasing the pair in southern Sweden.

A million Swedes are digitally excluded: report
How should Sweden bridge the digital divide? Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Tech-savvy Swedes? Perhaps not. A new study suggests that at least a million of its residents feel the pain of the digital divide.

Malmö's 19th Swedish title sets Champions hopes alight
Malmö fans celebrating after the match. Photo: Björn Lindgren/TT

Malmö FF have their eyes set on the Champions League after winning the Swedish league for the 19th time.

What's on in Sweden
Five great autumn events in Sweden this week
Jazz in northern Sweden. Photo: Umeå Jazz Festival

Food, music, movies and more food. What better way of helping yourself forget that the days are getting shorter and colder?

Here's how slow Sweden's high-speed trains are getting
A Swedish SJX2000 high speed train. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

The high-speed rail journey between the three biggest Swedish cities is about to get longer.

The Local List
12 Swedish words with just awesome literal translations
A filthy-minded lobster, i.e. a snuskhummer. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix/TT

One of our favourite things about the Swedish language is its wonderful compound words, which range from being utterly bizarre to making perfect sense.

Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
People-watching: October 26th
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Sweden cuts 2016 refugee forecast
Is Game of Thrones coming to Sweden?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Will Swedes soon be looking for fairtrade porn?
The Local Voices
'I simply don’t believe in nationality'
Why we're convinced Game of Thrones is based on Sweden
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
jobs available