Is Saint Lu­cia Pre­pared For Ebola?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By STAR RE­PORTER

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.

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