Is Saint Lucia Prepared For Ebola?
The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is warning the Caribbean not to be complacent as it deals with the outbreak of the Chikungunya virus and the preparation for the deadly Ebola virus.
CARPHA executive director Dr. James Hospedales said that preparation for the possibility of Ebola virus is of paramount importance. “As you may know, in the United States, the US CDC has reported the first imported case of Ebola in the Americas. This new development demonstrates the potential for the possible introduction of Ebola virus disease into any country.
“This case is at one of the gateways to the Caribbean and provides further evidence that, as a region, we need to be alert and prepared as a threat to regional health security may emerge from any country.
“There is no room for complacency and we at CARPHA continue to work with all our member states and our partners to bolster preparedness for Ebola, protect the health of the people and implement measures to minimise risk including those linked to the revised International Health Regulations (2005).”
Dr. Hospedales said there was also a need for a review of available Infection Prevention and Control guidelines for Ebola by the personnel within the health care system and acquisition of appropriate personal protective equipment.
Concern has been raised in many sectors about the preparation of the Caribbean to deal with any case of Ebola and the negative impact this may have on many of the islands highly dependent on tourism. And while local hoteliers say that there is a need for concern as well as greater awareness-they are mindful to avoid any panic that could adversely affect the vital tourism industry.
Here in Saint Lucia, as part of the Ministry of Health’s ongoing Multi-Sectoral Sensitization Strategy on the island’s response to the West African Ebola virus outbreak, health officials met with senior personnel from the Ministry of Tourism, St. Lucia Tourist Board and the St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association on Wednesday October 8th.
At that meeting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Ms. Cointha Thomas, noted the seriousness and timeliness of the meeting on the heals of reports in the international media of a case of Ebola in Dallas, Texas and another in Madrid, Spain.
One SLHTA official noted that the main issue for members is dissemination of information and education on the Ebola virus to allay unnecessary panic.
Commenting on the main concerns for the tourism industry, Donnavan Williams, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Heritage and Creative Industries said it is about ensuring that Saint Lucia’s borders are secure enough to detect and treat any suspected cases.
“I think that came across very clearly; that now we have systems in place. There is, I think, an effective system that will allow us to deal with any matters that do arise,” Williams says.
The meeting also agreed on the need for information sharing as well as education and sensitization training on Ebola by the Ministry of Health to the SLHTA and its members. Officer in Charge of Administration at the Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations, Wenn Gabriel stated, ” This issue is not one that requires a Ministry of Health response but a national response.
“Ebola is not just an issue of health security but, in fact as we have seen in these countries which have been affected, it’s an issue of national security also. Therefore we have met with a number of stakeholders,” Gabriel says.
Ministry of Health Officials pointed out that sensitization meetings will be held with Worker Union representatives from around the island and officials in the yachting sector with particular reference to the upcoming ARC event.
In the coming week special focus will be placed on a meeting with local media, who health officials consider to be critical in disseminating information which is accurate and scientifically sound to the general public.
The Ebola Virus (above) has already killed 672 people in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria and infected more than 1,200 since it was first diagnosed in
February. Symptoms include sudden fever, vomiting and headaches.