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Cayman Islands Government
 

Disease in West Africa

Following an outbreak of Ebola viral disease (previously known as Ebola Hemorrhagic fever) in West Africa, the Medical Officer of Health in the Cayman Islands, Dr Kiran Kumar, has issued an advisory.

Ebola is a rare but serious viral infection that affects humans and animals such as monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees. It first appeared in Africa in 1976, since then it has spread to 10 African Nations. Currently, there is an ongoing outbreak in West Africa, initially reported in March 2014 in Guinea and since late May has involved three countries: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The mode of transmission is not clear but it is thought that humans become infected through contact with infected animals. When the infection does occur in humans, the virus can be transmitted to others by direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person and exposure to objects such as needles that have been contaminated with infected secretions.

The virus that causes Ebola viral disease is often spread through family and friends because they come in close contact with infectious secretions when caring for sick persons. The disease can also spread quickly in health care settings when staff does not wear appropriate protective equipment such as masks, gowns and gloves.

Symptoms include fever, headache, joint and muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, lack of appetite. In some cases, patients may experience a rash, red eyes, hiccups, cough, sore throat and chest pain along with difficulty in breathing and swallowing.

While there are no borders for communicable diseases, it is unlikely that Ebola will pose a likely threat to the Cayman Islands. We do not have many travelers to and from the part of the world in which the outbreak is occurring, but things could change and for that reason we should not be complacent. Although unlikely, it is not impossible that a person infected in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone could arrive in the Cayman Islands. An individual infected with Ebola may arrive in the Cayman Islands with symptoms which began prior to departure or with symptoms that developed in transit or they may arrive before developing any symptoms.

Hence, the seaport and airport staff are advised of general protective measures against blood and body fluids and if they encounter passengers coming from the countries where there is an outbreak who appear ill, to refer to the Cayman Islands Hospital. Healthcare Workers (both government and private) have been advised of the outbreak.

Travellers to these countries are advised to consult a physician should they develop symptoms while in these countries or on return, especially if they had come in contact with a confirmed or suspected case of Ebola viral disease.

For more information on Ebola a fact sheet can be collected from the Public Health Department or by accessing the following websites:

Public Health England (including the outbreak and maps of affected area):

http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/Ebola/

World Health Organization (WHO):

http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/en/index.html

CDC on http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/transmission/index.html