Ebola Virus Disease Update
Although there are no current reported cases here in the Cayman Islands, local medical personnel and government officials are continuing preparations for the unlikely event of an Ebola (EVD) patient requiring care.
In preparation for any threat of Ebola, a total of $2.9 million has been provided to date. This is broken down as: $1.2 M for 1 EVD-rated Odulair field hospital with 8 beds, preparation of the grounds in the existing staff parking lot to accommodate the field hospital, purchase of ventilator, dialysis, monitors, wheelchair, laser thermometer and 36 reusable helmets. The other $ 1.7 M will cover cost for inpatient staffing, EMS premium, training for staff and supplies.
In the meantime, a temporary isolation area has been identified and is in the process of being equipped and supplied to be used if a case is detected before the field unit arrives. Hospital staff members have also been identified as front-line EVD carers and additional training took place abroad about two weeks ago for select H.S.A staff.
As a preventive measure Minister for Health Hon. Osbourne Bodden urged residents of the Cayman Islands not to panic but to be aware of the virus, and to get proper advice as required. He added, “Although the threat is very low, things could change and for that reason we should not be complacent.”
How does the disease spread? The virus is transmitted through direct contact with the blood or body fluids such as blood, saliva, mucus, vomit, urine or faeces of an Ebola Virus Disease infected person (alive or dead). For example, touching an infected person’s eyes, nose or mouth or an open cut, wound or abrasion can transmit the virus to the person touching. However, any person thus exposed to the virus but without symptoms cannot transmit the virus.
The public is asked to avoid such exposures and maintain personal hygiene through sanitisation and hand washing.
Globally, a total of 14,413 of (confirmed, probable and suspected) cases of Ebola Virus Disease have been reported in six affected countries (Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Spain and the United States of America) and two previously affected countries (Nigeria and Senegal) up to the end of 11 November. There have been 5177 reported deaths.
The outbreaks of EVD in Senegal and Nigeria were declared over on 17 October and 19 October 2014, respectively. However, as of 16 November 2014, Mali has reported six cases (five confirmed and one probable) including five deaths. This resulted in enhanced screening and surveillance of travellers arriving in the USA from Mali since 17 November 2014.
While there have been no new reported cases occurring within our region within the last three weeks, there has been a death of a doctor flown in from Sierra Leone for treatment of Ebola resulting the death toll to two in the USA. The two nurses that contracted Ebola in the USA, along with the doctor in New York, are now disease free.
There are currently also travel restrictions in place for visitors or residents returning to the Cayman Islands from endemic countries.
Visitors or returning residents from the endemic countries, or persons who have travelled to, from or through Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone within 21 days of their planned arrival are not allowed to land in the Cayman Islands.
To ensure application of this travel restriction, the Immigration Department has developed a Travel Health Questionnaire which has been distributed to all airlines. All passengers including Caymanians/Cayman Status holders, returning residents and visitors are required to complete the form. In efforts of early detection, cruise ships also have internal mechanisms to ensure implementation at local boarders.
Minister Bodden thanks officials for this decision “and in doing all we can to protect the people of our country.”
Adding to this, Medical Officer for Health Dr Kiran Kumar also expressed that, “I am pleased to see that our efforts are already in compliance with CARICOM’s Heads of Government adopted plan of action.“ The global picture is changing every day. Hence in addition to the countries with travel ban travellers from Mali also will be subjected to health screening and quarantine measures on arrival in Cayman” he added.
With steps ranging from public education to training and execution, the ultimate goal of the plan is to protect residents against Ebola.
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Side bar – CARICOM’s 10 Point Plan of Action
1. Strengthen effective, coordinated measures at ports of entry to prevent Ebola from entering countries
2. Strengthen health systems including training, equipment, laboratories and containment, and enlist the participation of airlines in the Region in transporting specimens and response teams;
3. Create a Regional Rapid Response Team to reach any CARPHA Member State in twenty-four (24) hours to help contain/stop an outbreak;
4. Launch an intensive public education campaign for citizens and visitors;
5. Organize a possible Stop Ebola There and Here (SETH) Fund where persons may donate;
6. Finalise and implement a regional operational response plan by end-November;
7. Participate in capacity-building efforts to gain experience for our benefit;
8. Establish a Regional Coordinating Mechanism on Ebola (RCME) with CARPHA as Chair, with the immediate responsibility to develop a comprehensive regional strategy to address Ebola preparedness;
9. Invite PAHO/WHO, the United Nations, other development partners and contributors to a meeting within one (1) month to expand the effectiveness of collective response;
10. Review and reinforce the effectiveness of these measures.