… Jamaica focuses on points of entry
Anastasia Cunningham, Health Coordinator
As countries in the Caribbean and the Americas continue to monitor the Ebola situation on this side of the world, the Ministry of Health is having high-level meetings with stakeholders in the health sector to strengthen Jamaica's systems in preparation to deal with the deadly disease should it reach the island.
In light of the report of a confirmed case of the Ebola virus in Texas, United States, on Tuesday, Dr Marion Bullock DuCasse, acting chief medical officer, noted that Jamaica's points of entry is the chief focus at this time, as part of the preparation plan.
"We continue to ensure that our systems are strengthened, especially in the area of surveillance, including at the points of entry, so that we can quickly detect and respond to any case that may come into the island. Meetings have been held with the management teams of the responsible authorities to ensure implementation of the required measures," Bullock DuCasse said.
She added that the country has been on the alert since the outbreak in Africa earlier this year, and for months, steps have been taken to heighten surveillance and staff has already been sensitised and trained specifically with respect to Ebola.
Public hospitals across the island have also identified isolation areas and a facility has been refurbished specifically to accommodate isolation for Ebola.
"We are also working with the Pan American Health Organization, which is providing technical support, and we will be increasing our public-education efforts. The ministry will continue to monitor the situation and keep the public updated," Bullock DuCasse said.
FIRST IN HEMISPHERE
This is the first confirmed Ebola case in this part of the world. Since the outbreak earlier this year, the disease has been wreaking havoc on sections of west Africa, particularly Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Senegal and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The World Health Organization said more than 6,574 people are infected with Ebola, and more than 3,091 have died of the disease, and the numbers are growing.
Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with blood and body fluids of infected persons. Persons are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus. In one case, the Ebola virus was isolated from semen 61 days after onset of the disease in a man who was infected in a laboratory.
Men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to seven weeks after recovery from the illness.
Those who care for a person with the virus as well as those who prepare or come in contact with or touch the body of someone who died from Ebola are also at high risk of getting the disease as the bodies can still transmit the virus.
Ebola can also be contracted by touching contaminated needles or surfaces (for example, soiled clothing, bed linen).
During an outbreak, the disease can spread quickly in health-care facilities, hence the importance of quarantine areas for those with the virus and adequate protective gear for health-care workers and non-infected persons.
Proper cleaning and disposal of contaminated instruments, such as needles, syringes and gloves, is also important. If instruments are not disposable, they must be properly sterilised before being used again. Without adequate sterilisation of the instruments, the transmission can continue and increase an outbreak.
The Ebola virus can also be transmitted to domestic animals, such as dogs and pigs.
Symptoms include fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, and weakness, followed by diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach pain. Skin rash, red eyes, and internal and external bleeding may be seen in some patients.