October 7, 2014
Ministry of Health increases monitoring at ports of entry

Following confirmation of the first case of Ebola in the United States last week, St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Ministry of Health has increased its vigilance of persons entering the multi-island state.{{more}}

According to chief medical officer Dr Simone Keizer-Beache, regulations at all ports of entry have been changed, not only because of the US Ebola case, but mainly because of an “imported malaria case” in neighbouring St Lucia.

“We have expanded now, where we are asking for the travel history for all persons coming in,” she outlined.

“All persons are being asked about fevers and so on. That is our only update.”

Previously, Immigration staff and health officials stationed at the ET Joshua Airport and other ports of entry were only on the lookout for persons from Nigeria – the least afflicted of the West African countries to have reported cases of Ebola.

Whereas persons from or who had travelled through Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea (during a 28 day period) have been banned from entering SVG, those from or having travelled through Nigeria within the same time period have to present a medical certificate and a negative PCR blood test in order to be considered for entry.

On September 26, 2014, SEARCHLIGHT reported that four Nigerian students were being quarantined locally for failing to provide the required documentation when attempting to clear local Immigration at the ET Joshua Airport.

Dr Keizer-Beache relayed that a fifth Nigerian student arrived in SVG two weekends ago, and is also being held in quarantine for not having the proper documentation, despite not currently exhibiting any symptoms. The first Nigerian student to have arrived almost four weeks ago has since passed his 21-day quarantine without developing any symptoms, and has resumed study at one of the local medical schools.

Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that a Liberian national, Thomas Duncan, who was visiting relatives in Dallas, Texas, had tested positive for the Ebola virus.

Thomas, who is currently in “critical condition”, arrived in the US on September 20, but only started showing symptoms on September 24. He sought medical care two days later but was sent home, following which he returned to the Texas Presbyterian Hospital on September 28, was admitted, then put in isolation.

Thomas is not receiving the experimental treatment that earlier this year cured two American volunteers who were flown back to the US from West Africa after contracting the Ebola virus there.

Speaking with news agency CNN, CDC director Thomas Frieden said that there is no danger of the disease spreading in the US as it has done in West Africa.

“I have no doubt that we will control this case of Ebola,” he assured. “It is certainly possible that someone who has had contact with this patient could develop Ebola, but there is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here.”

With an incubation period of two to 21 days, Ebola is spread by bodily fluids such as blood, sweat, vomit and semen; and symptoms include high fever, internal and external bleeding and central nervous system damage.

According to figures released by the World Health Organization, some 7,492 cases have been reported, with 3,439 of those resulting in death.

St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Ebola risk level remains low, based on the evaluation of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).(JSV)