At least two Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have responded to a warning by the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) that regional countries should seek to enhance disease surveillance at ports of entry and at health facilities following the categorisation of the current outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) as a public health emergency.
St Lucia and Barbados have both indicated that steps are being taken to ensure that their populations are not put at risk for the disease the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
The WHO statement was in reference to the current EVD outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
St Lucia’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Merlene Fredericks-James says while the risk of getting a case of Ebola is extremely low here, the possibility of being affected exists, regardless of how low it may be.
“Though the outbreak continues in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Health Organisation has indicated that at this point in time it is not necessary for countries that are far away – such as countries in the Caribbean, to implement excessive screening measures at their ports,” Fredericks-James stated in a statement made available to the media.
She recalled that during the last Ebola “scare” St Lucia had implemented screening measures at its ports. But she disclosed that the measure is not indicated at this point in time, adding also that the WHO has advised that there should be no hindrance to trade or travel.
Meanwhile, in Barbados, the Ministry of Health and Wellness said it is reviewing and updating its Ebola Plan to ensure that authorities are able to respond effectively, if the need arises.
In a statement the Ministry said that Minister of Health and Wellness, Lt Col Jeffrey Bostic, had met with the Ministry’s senior officials as well as representatives of the Bridgetown Port, the Grantley Adams International Airport and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to review the status of preparedness.
The Ministry has assured the public that it will continue to take steps to strengthen its level of preparedness and these measures would inform the revision of the Ebola Plan.