Caribbean health professionals have agreed that the risk of the escalating Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) being imported to the Region is low. This however is no reason for nations of the bloc not to familiarize themselves with the matter and disseminate the necessary information.
The Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) Public Health Agency’s (CARPHA) Executive
Director Dr. C. James Hospedales said that “There have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in the Caribbean, and overall, the risk of becoming infected with the Ebola Virus in this Region remains low.” Additionally, he stated that “in countries where the virus is present, people who have direct contact with the organs, blood, or other bodily fluids of dead or living infected persons or animals are those at greatest risk.”
Currently, the African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have reported increases in the number of EVD cases, while Nigeria in the last few days has reported the presence of the illness, international news have stated.
CARPHA’s evaluates that the risk of importation of the disease to the Caribbean region depends heavily on the movement of affected travelers. The four African countries are said to have been greatly affected by the disaster and so far, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there have been 1711 confirmed cases of EVD and 932 deaths at the beginning of the month.
Reports say that this is the largest EVD outbreak ever to be reported; in terms of cases and the geographical spread. The WHO, in a bid to address the matter, has already called emergency meetings to discuss the way forward. International news reports have noted also that the swift spread of the illness has caused some panic and international countries have described the outbreak as a global concern.
As the Ebola Virus stirs, there has been an increased concern in the Region and the CARPHA says it is committed to supporting its member states “to adequately prepare for potential cases and to implement the necessary steps to protect healthcare facilities, patients, healthcare workers and communities.”
The Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) has urged the Caribbean to be vigilant and prepare for a potential introduction of the deadly Ebola virus in the Region. According to CARPHA, the WHO’s Director General, Margaret Chan made the statement that the outbreak in West Africa constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC).
The PHEIC determination was made based on recommendations from WHO’s International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee, which suggested temporary measures to reduce the international spread of the virus for three different groups of WHO member states.
WHO’s IHR Emergency Committee recommended that countries of the Region do not impose any general ban on international travel or trade, and recommended further that Caribbean countries provide travellers to Ebola-affected and at-risk areas with relevant information on risks, measures to minimise those risks, and advice for managing potential exposure. The committee noted that Caribbean States should be prepared to detect, investigate, and manage Ebola cases, which should include access to a qualified diagnostic laboratory for EVD and, where appropriate, the capacity to manage travellers originating from known Ebola-infected areas who arrive at international airports or major land crossing points with unexplained febrile illness.
“At this time, all actions in the Americas should be oriented toward preventing the establishment of local transmission before the introduction of a possible imported case,” noted Marcos Espinal, Director of PAHO’s Department of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis had injected.
Ebola spreads through mucous and body fluids or secretions such as stool, urine, saliva and semen of infected people. It was noted that, should the infection unfortunately reach the Caribbean, transmission to persons in close contact is still “very low” if appropriate measures are implemented.
These precautions include avoiding physical contact with patients showing symptoms or dead bodies and their bodily fluids, as well as avoiding unprotected sexual contact with a patient that has recently recovered from the disease. International organizations say that the Ebola Virus was found in African monkeys, chimps and other non human primates.
Ebola is a severe and often fatal illness which thrives in the blood or bodily fluids of infected persons or animals. The virus damages the immune system and organs, ultimately causing levels of blood-clotting cells to drop, resulting in severe, uncontrollable bleeding.
Locally, the main opposition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has called for an effort by the Health Ministry to embark on an awareness campaign which will enlighten the public on the effects of the deadly Ebola Virus outbreak. The political body recommended that posters, pamphlets, advertisements and other forms of public notices be used to educate the masses on the deadly effects of the Virus.
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