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PAHO/WHO expert missions support Eastern Caribbean countries in preparing for a potential case of Ebola

Bridgetown, 21 November 2014 (PAHO/WHO) – Expert missions mobilized by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) have visited seven countries of the Eastern Caribbean this month to support their efforts to prepare for the possible introduction of cases of Ebola virus disease.

In coordination with national health authorities and with support from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), three expert missions have already visited Barbados, Dominica, Antigua, and Grenada, and others are expected to conclude tomorrow in St. Vincent, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Lucia.

The missions are supporting efforts in Eastern Caribbean countries to ensure they are able to detect, treat, and contain the spread of any potential case of Ebola. PAHO/WHO will follow up on the missions in the coming weeks, providing technical cooperation as requested and according to each country’s needs.

Since the start of West Africa’s current Ebola epidemic, more than 15,000 cases and over 5,000 deaths have been reported. In the Americas, only the United States has reported cases (two imported and two of local transmission). No cases have been reported in Latin America or the Caribbean, although the risk of such a case cannot be discarded.

“Working together we can continue to strengthen basic capacities defined by the International Health Regulations, so that we are better prepared to respond effectively not only to Ebola but to any health emergency that arrives on our shores,” said Godfrey Xuereb, PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

The PAHO/WHO missions, in cooperation with CARPHA, are focusing on the following areas, in alignment with the International Health Regulations:

  • Coordination of institutions involved in detecting and responding to potential Ebola cases
  • Epidemiological investigation, surveillance and laboratory capacity, particularly to ensure rapid identification and isolation of cases, diagnostic confirmation, and contact tracing to contain the spread of the virus
  • Logistics, ensuring that needed supplies are available, especially personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, and that effective mechanisms for shipping laboratory specimens are in place
  • Communication capacity to ensure transparency and public trust in health authorities and general compliance with public health measures.

Last week in Barbados, PAHO/WHO facilitated training in risk communication for participants throughout the Caribbean, to help ensure the countries are able to communicate effectively with the public during an outbreak or other health emergency. More than 100 health and communication experts from 30 countries and territories participated in the training. PAHO/WHO also organized training on risk communication for chief medical officers in the Caribbean.

During the first week of December, PAHO/WHO will provide training in Antigua and Barbuda for representatives of Caribbean countries focused on organization of health services and clinical management of Ebola.

PAHO/WHO has been working with its member countries throughout the Americas to ensure they have the necessary policies, procedures and human resource capacity in place to manage any introduction of Ebola. This work has included virtual and in-person training in preparedness, risk communication, and logistics as well as the dissemination of norms and standards for infection control, disease surveillance, use of personal protective equipment, collection and handling of highly pathogenic laboratory samples, and laboratory procedures.

Ebola virus disease is a serious infectious disease spread from person to person. Infection is transmitted by direct or indirect contact with the blood, body fluids or secretions (stool, urine, saliva, semen) of infected people, but only when they show symptoms. Ebola cannot be transmitted by air.

Founded in 1902, PAHO is the world's oldest international public health organization. It works with the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their populations. It serves as WHO's Regional Office for the Americas and is the specialized health agency of the Inter-American system.

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CMLF News Issue #7
27th January 2016