Chance of ebola coming to Caribbean low – CARPHA official
October 21, 2014
Chance of ebola coming to Caribbean low – CARPHA official

The chances of the deadly ebola virus making its way to the Caribbean is very low; however, all steps must be taken to fortify our borders to ensure that the region’s citizens and economies are protected from the disease.

That’s the view of Dr James Hospedales, executive director{{more}} of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

Hospedales was last Thursday making a presentation to the media at the end of the two-day Council of Health Ministers of the OECS, at the National Insurance Services conference room in Kingstown.

The former Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) official outlined a number of reasons why he and other health administrators believe that the disease reaching the region is unlikely.

He also touched on ways that the disease could be prevented from arriving at the ports.

“The likelihood of a case of ebola arriving in the Caribbean is judged to be low for several reasons: the countries that are affected, primarily Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, and we have very little traffic with those countries.

“Exit screening has been present in those countries for the last few months; over 36,000 people have been screened, using what’s called a thermal scanner, 77 were found to have fever, none of them were found to have ebola; the fever was due to other causes such as malaria.

“So, in the 40,000 persons leaving those countries, none were found to have any ebola and the vast majority were not coming here, very few come to the Caribbean.

“Secondly, the CARICOM IMPACS (Implementation Agency for Crime and Security), which operates the Advanced Passenger Information System on behalf of the CARICOM countries, which includes the OECS gives advanced warning on anyone who has embarked in one of those countries, so that’s an additional level of minimizing the likelihood of someone coming here,” Hospedales added.

“Now having said that, we still have to take steps to strengthen our preparedness individually and collectively, so that we are protecting our citizens and protecting the economies of the region, given how tourism dependent we are.

“These include the streamlining and the harmonizing of procedures at ports of entry and strengthening of procedures within the health sector; isolation facilities, training of health workers, the provision of personal protective equipment.

The health official said that despite the gravity of the disease, which has killed over 4,000 persons mainly in West Africa, there is no need for panic in the region; rather, there should be a careful monitoring of the international situation.

“I will say that partly because of the amount of coverage in North America, the problem is bigger than it really is, and there is a need to combat the epidemic of fear with reason.

“We must be careful that in applying measures not to deny people from other countries or our own citizens who have other conditions, not to deny them care. It may be appendicitis, it may be food poisoning, but at the moment as soon as this word “ebola” appears people are nervous, so that needs to be combated….” Hospedales pointed out. (JJ)