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Local airport staff to be trained in Ebola fight

Published:Friday | October 3, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU: Immigration and Customs officers at the island's two main international airports are to receive training on how to detect and assess persons entering the country who may have had exposure to Ebola.

Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Marion Bullock Ducasse said training will commence next Monday, October 6, at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA).

"The training will include, but will not be limited to, applying more scrutiny and assessment of people's travel history. They will also be given information on the Ebola virus itself and how to protect themselves," Bullock Ducasse told The Gleaner yesterday, shortly after a meeting with head of the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency, Jennifer McDonald.

The training is among a series of activities being implemented as surveillance is heightened at all ports of entry, even while the acting CMO stated categorically that Jamaica has had no suspected case and no actual case of Ebola. She cautioned against misinformation in Jamaica.

However, with the island's proximity to the United States and the confirmation of one case in Texas, it is full speed ahead with public education and beefing up staff in the most vulnerable areas.

According to Bullock Ducasse, NMIA, which is a designed point of entry, was selected for training first because most of the business people who travel to Ebola-affected countries are likely to travel to the country's capital city, Kingston.

Immigration, she said, will have to direct all persons coming from Ebola-hit countries to the Port Health staff, where they will undergo an interview.


"The incubation period is two to 21 days. It is only when they show signs and symptoms that we would isolate them," she said, adding that Jamaica has had persons who have come in from the affected countries but were monitored on a daily basis.

"This type of monitoring during the incubation period has been successful to date," she noted, adding that an health alert card is given to passengers on arrival.

"This card is a reminder to the person that if they show symptoms, they are to report immediately to a doctor."

Bullock Ducasse pointed out that in the case of cruise ship passengers, they are given information even before they board the ships, and while onboard, they are briefed. However, each port has its own health-alert staff disseminating information and interviewing people.

The health official is concerned about misinformation and wants to remind the nation that the authority on the issues such as Ebola remains the Ministry of Health.

Even while Jamaica protects its ports, Global News Canada in a recent article stated that quarantine officers were posted at all of Canada's international airports - Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal - in its fight against the deadly disease.

The media outlet quoted the Public Health Agency of Canada as saying that these quarantine officers work around the clock, seven days a week.

In the meantime, the man who brought Ebola to the United States of America is to be prosecuted in his country, Liberia, once he is well enough to return home.