CDEMA ISSUES NOTE TO PARTICIPATING STATES ON EBOLA VIRUS
The World Health Organization (2014) has declared an outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) as ongoing in Western Africa; with Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea being the most seriously affected. To date, there have been over 8,000 cases reported with over 4,000 deaths (WHO, 2014). Recent cases of the virus being contracted in Spain and the United States of America have also been reported.
As a result, the CDEMA Coordinating Unit (CU) is disseminating this correspondence to its Participating States and the media in order to provide basic information about the virus and to strongly encourage the adoption of a position of greater vigilance and preparedness with regard to the potential introduction of the EVD within the Caribbean Region.
The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)
The EVD, formerly known as the Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, is a severe illness primarily transmitted through person to person contact with the blood, bodily fluids and tissues of infected persons (WHO, 2014). However, infection through indirect contact with the environment and materials soiled with bodily fluids may also occur. The Pan American Health Organization (2014) further advises that transmission to humans through contact with wild animals, dead or alive, is a possibility.
The risk of transmission of the disease remains low (WHO, 2014). However, of those particularly at risk of infection are health care workers, family members and others in close contact with infected persons or deceased patients.
It is important to note that there is a case fatality rate of between 25% and 90% and there is no specific treatment or vaccine available for use in humans or animals to date (WHO, 2014; PAHO, 2014).
Advice to Participating States (PS)
In light of the current global situation, the CDEMA Coordinating Unit strongly encourages its Participating States to give serious consideration to the utilisation of their National Influenza Pandemic Plans as the basis of their Ebola preparations. Countries should review and strengthen plans, incorporating best practices and international standards for preparedness and mitigation where appropriate.
According to the International Health Regulations (2005), countries are advised to develop protocols which strengthen public health capacities at all designated ports of entry (airports, sea ports and ground crossings) when responding to events that constitute a public health emergency or international concern.
Participating States are also encouraged to develop robust public awareness and communications campaigns which provide accurate, timely and relevant information on the EVD outbreak, symptoms and precautionary measures to reduce risk of exposure. Messages and distribution channels should be appropriate for each target group, with special consideration given to high risk groups such as health care providers and vulnerable groups such as the disabled and the elderly.
Special emphasis should also be placed on operational communication among stakeholders. Effective coordination of operational communication will ensure that decision makers within the PS are aware of new developments, enabling them to make informed decisions with regard to policy and critical actions to be undertaken to preserve, promote and protect the health of locals and visitors. Given the potential of the virus to affect cross-border areas; operational communication should take into consideration inter-country communications.
The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency will continue to monitor the regional situation and provide updates as appropriate. The Agency stands ready to provide assistance to its Participating States where necessary.
Further information and guidance on the Ebola Virus Disease may be found at the following sites: