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December 18, 2014

JICA Helps Vietnam Prepare for the Possibility of Ebola Cases
A Japanese specialist conducts training in detecting the virus and safely handling it in a laboratory

photoHands-on training in deactivating suspected Ebola specimens in a laboratory of Vietnam's National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology

In response to the recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa and cases emerging elsewhere, the Vietnamese Government has, with JICA's help, taken steps to prepare for the possibility of Ebola gradually making its way to Vietnam.

Japan sent an infectious disease specialist to Vietnam Oct. 4 to 14 to hold a workshop for Vietnamese researchers and medical professionals on laboratory detection methods and the safe handling of possible Ebola specimens. Shuetsu Fukushi, a virus research official at Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID), also provided guidance and advice on efforts to establish a system for testing for the virus.

The work was done in coordination with JICA's ongoing “Project for Capacity Development for Laboratory Network in Vietnam of Biosafety and Examination of Highly Hazardous Infectious Pathogen.”

Fukushi gave basic lectures on topics including basic scientific knowledge of Ebola, its epidemiology so far, how to actually inactivate the Ebola virus in suspected specimens in a laboratory, and an outline of general laboratory detection methods. Then he provided hands-on training in deactivating suspected Ebola specimens in a laboratory of Vietnam's National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE).

In the training, Fukushi emphasized that the proper use of personal protective equipment and biosafety cabinets when handling suspected Ebola specimens is essential to preventing infection. He also stressed strictly observing biosafety principles learned in project training so far.

In training on detecting virus genes and antibodies, participants succeeded in detecting the Ebola virus and it was confirmed that they learned basic laboratory detection methods.

Before Fukushi was dispatched, Vietnam's Ministry of Health made an emergency assistance request to the “Project for Capacity Development for Laboratory Network in Vietnam of Biosafety and Examination of Highly Hazardous Infectious Pathogen” through the NIHE and the World Health Organization's Vietnam office. The request was to invite specialists from NIID for help creating a structure for laboratory detection of the Ebola virus.

The project responded rapidly in collaboration with the JICA headquarters and the relevant research department and international cooperation office at NIID.

As of December 3, the World Health Organization had confirmed 17,145 people had contracted Ebola and 6,070 had died from it in the latest outbreak.

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