AN GIANG (VNS) — Although few foreigners enter Viet Nam's southern provinces by land or water, body temperature scans are being used at border gates to test for the deadly Ebola virus and other infections.
All those who arrive through the Song Tien gate on the Cambodian border in An Giang Province must walk through temperature scans, just as they now do at international airport terminals.
However, Vietnamese and Cambodian citizens who live near the border and who have IDs with a seal proving their place of residence are allowed to cross the border freely.
However, if ebola is reported in South-east Asia, everyone will be required to be scanned.
Between September and November, the Song Tien gate, which links Cambodia both by road and river, received only about 100 tourists.
Nguyen Van Dong, deputy head of the International Health Quarantine Department at Song Tien, said eight officials were co-ordinating customs people, border guards and tourism officials to prevent any virus spreading.
Besides speaking with his counterparts in neighbouring Dong Thap and Kien Giang provinces, which both border Cambodia, Dong has weekly talks with officials in Cambodia to keep abreast of news on ebola.
"No African citizens have passed through the gate. If one traveller is found with the virus, we will isolate the entire group," Dong said, adding that all of the medical equipment and quarantine rooms were ready.
Dong said Vietnamese officials were paying close attention as Cambodia's health quarantine system was rather weak. He said staff were well prepared for emergencies and had attended regular training courses.
"We are confident that we can prevent the virus from spreading to the province, even if it is found in neighbouring countries. Our system was set up a long time ago to prevent the entry of people with swine flu, bird flu and SARS," he said.
At Tinh Bien, another international border gate in An Giang, an infrared body temperature screening system, is also being used.
However, according to Nguyen Hoang Dong, deputy head of International Health Quarantine department at the Tinh Bien border, more than 1,000 Vietnamese and Cambodians cross the border every day.
Like at Song Tien, instructions on how to detect and prevent the spread of the virus are posted on walls.
An Giang has two border gates where temperature measuring machines have been installed.
Tran Vinh Phuoc, director of the An Giang Province's International Health Quarantine Centre, said health inspections had been tightened recently.
If a traveller has an unusual body temperature, he or she will go through a health check and quarantine procedure.
In the south-eastern province of Tay Ninh, officials from Moc Bai and Xa Mat border gates are performing similar tasks.
People arriving through the border gates are generally required to provide home and work addresses, or the name of their hotel and phone number.
They are also told to contact the nearest health care centre if they develop sudden fever, sore throat, headache, muscle pain, intense weakness, vomiting or other symptoms.
If a person arrives at a border gate with high temperature, they will be quarantined before being screened again asked to fill out a health declaration form.
If they are suspected of carrying the ebola virus, a blood sample will be taken to HCM City's Pasteur Institute for testing.
Do Hong Son, deputy head of the provincial Tay Ninh General Hospital, said the Department of Health had also opened training courses on ebola for the province's health staff.
The hospital is in charge of checking prevention procedures at the district's health centres, Son said, adding that medical material and equipment as well as a quarantine area for infected patients were available.
However, he said he was concerned about the hospital's shortage of doctors and funds for buying protective gear.
Viet Nam has had no reported ebola virus cases.
Three Vietnamese passengers test negative
Three Vietnamese men have been isolated in the HCM City Hospital for Tropical Diseases after they returned to Viet Nam on the same flight from Ebola-affected Liberia.
Medical staff at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport detected that one of the three passengers had fever on Wednesday night.
The men had left Liberia on Monday to return to Viet Nam. Previously, the men had lived together in the same house and worked in the printing sector in Monrovia, Liberia.
Their hometowns are located in the central provinces of Quang Nam and Quang Ngai.
The hospital said yesterday that the men are now in stable condition after being isolated and treated as per the regulations of the Health Ministry.
The man, who was suspected to have been infected by the Ebola virus and had shown symptoms of fever, has recovered, the hospital said.
The three men are expected to leave the hospital after 24 hours of isolation during which no other symptoms of the Ebola fever emerged.
The health departments in their hometowns will be asked to continue the supervision of the three men's medical progress. — VNS