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PAHO and WHO Resources for Health Care Providers On Ebola

US CDC confirms Ebola in a healthcare worker who treated the first patient diagnosed with the disease in the Americas

Washington, D.C., 13 October 2014 (PAHO/WHO) - Healthcare workers throughout the Americas should be trained in the use of personal protective equipment and early identification of suspected cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD), the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) emphasized today. It also reminded its member countries of the importance of maintaining surveillance and updating procedures that need to be implemented in the case of an introduction of the virus.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed yesterday (Oct. 12) that a healthcare worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital was infected with Ebola, after providing treatment for the first Ebola patient diagnosed within the United States, who died on Oct. 8. The healthcare worker reported a low-grade fever on Oct. 10 and was referred for testing, which came back positive. She has since been in isolation, and contact tracing is underway, according to the CDC.

The deceased Ebola patient had traveled from West Africa, where more than 8,300 cases and 4,000 deaths from Ebola had been reported as of Oct. 10.

Healthcare workers are at high risk of infection with Ebola unless they take adequate precautions. In Africa, healthcare workers have been one of the most heavily affected groups, with 416 cases and 233 deaths. The virus is not airborne but is transmitted through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people.

PAHO/WHO is working with its Member States in the Americas to ensure preparedness for any possible introduction of Ebola virus disease. The Organization issued an epidemiological update on Oct. 10 reminding member countries of the need for measures to ensure early detection of potential cases. These include heightened awareness among both screening personnel at points of entry and healthcare workers on the clinical features of the disease, especially fever, and screening questions about history of travel to Ebola-affected countries or other means of exposure to the disease. Healthcare workers especially should be prepared to report suspected cases immediately to the authorities and to implement the necessary protocols.

PAHO/WHO is also reminding countries of the need to strengthen measures for infection prevention and control in their health services, including through training of healthcare workers in the use of personal protective equipment. Toward this end, PAHO/WHO has disseminated the document Infection prevention and control guidance for care of patients with suspected of confirmed Filovirus haemorrhagic fever in health-care settings, with focus on Ebola 2014.

If and when a case is detected in a country, an effective response to prevent the establishment of local transmission includes:

  • Rigorous infection control measures
  • Isolation of cases
  • Contact tracing
  • Access to and correct use of personal protective equipment by health workers
  • Community education with clear, transparent, up-to-date information
  • Risk communication
  • Coordinated implementation of public health measures in a manner proportional to the risks.

PAHO/WHO has been interacting proactively with its Member States to support and orient their preparedness efforts to respond to the potential introduction of an EVD case and to prevent the establishment of local transmission. A document defining the strategic approach to preparedness and response was developed and disseminated to Member States through multiple channels.

To guide PAHO's actions in this area, PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne created a special task force and an operational working group that will advise and support the implementation of the recommendations of the IHR Emergency Committee and coordinate the response to the potential introduction of EVD in the Americas.

PAHO/WHO has also been supporting the response in West African countries affected by the EVD outbreak with the deployment of staff. The Organization is also assisting its Member States with deployments of their nationals and facilitating cooperation among countries.

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CMLF News Issue #7
27th January 2016