Tsunami disaster - three in quarantine but Czechs continue to travel to stricken areas

Sri Lanka, photo: CTK

Over a week after the Indian Ocean disaster, 23 Czechs are still missing with one confirmed dead and seven more unlikely to have survived. Most of the survivors who have returned to the Czech Republic have been reunited with their families, though three people have been put in quarantine at Prague's Bulovka hospital.

Sri Lanka,  photo: CTK
Five million people have been left homeless in Southeast Asia and with little food and clean water the fear of an outbreak of infectious diseases is great. While the World Health Organisation reports of suspected cases of cholera in Sri Lanka and Sumatra there has been no evidence of an outbreak yet. Numerous cases of diarrhoea are reported in some districts but are very much the expected norm.

The two men and one woman who are in quarantine in Prague are also believed to be suffering from normal cases of diarrhoea. Tourists returning home from the affected regions undergo health checks on flight and, as Health Ministry spokeswoman Vera Carna told Czech Radio, are only put in quarantine if they are suffering from suspicious symptoms:

"While they are still on the plane home the travellers are provided with information about what to do if there are any signs of infection. They're also told how to clean and disinfect clothing which has come into contact with flood water, and so on."

While plans for rapid diagnosis of diarrhoea to exclude cholera have been carried out, most health organisations say an outbreak of diseases is only a matter of time. The Health Ministry is monitoring the development and an expert on infectious diseases has been put on board all incoming flights from the affected region. Vera Carna again:

Thailand,  photo: CTK
"It's not possible to rule out incidence of alimentary infections, such as dysentery, cholera, hepatitis A or malaria. The Health Ministry is monitoring the news every day and if the need for special measures arises we will introduce them immediately and inform the public."

But while the world's hygienists are warning of an epidemic, most of the country's tourist agencies continue to offer flights to the region; some even to stricken areas like the Thai island of Phuket. Those who have already paid for their holiday packages to Southeast Asia can be reimbursed or fly elsewhere but a significant number have decided to go ahead with their plans - some to see the devastation with their own eyes, but most hoping that they'll be supporting the countries' economies as tourists.