Chief Medical Officer, (CMO), for the country, Dr. Patrick Martin disclosed that senior health managers met on Tuesday to examine the current state of the ‘crisis’ in the African states of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Guinea, while also giving consideration to possible measures to be adopted to both prevent the entry of the disease here and also how to respond if it becomes necessary.
Dr. Martin declared that residents here can be assured that everything possible is being done to prevent and control the spread of the disease to this part of the world. He added that the main focus of the global health community right now is to contain the disease at its source, (Africa).
Experts say the virus has been spreading across West Africa at an unprecedented rate this year and have termed it the worse epidemic of the disease ever.
The World Health Organization, (WHO), said since this last outbreak began in February this year, 1,013 people have died and the United Nations revealed that as many as 1,848 suspected probable or confirmed cases have been recorded.
The epidemic seems to be gaining momentum, as 52 new deaths and 69 new cases were recorded between 7 and 9 August alone, although the virus is not highly contagious.
However, since the recent cases erupted and spread to Nigeria, some residents in St. Kitts and Nevis have been concerned, recognizing that the frequency of travel between the large African nation and the small twin-island Caribbean state has increased significantly since the establishment of a medical university on island.
But though this may be the case, the Chief Medical Officer was careful to point out that the International Civil Aviation Association has also issued certain advice to its member airlines. “It is unlikely that a sick person will get on an international aircraft. But in public health we never say, never, so we always have to prepare and we are preparing here in St. Kitts and Nevis, in connection with our Caribbean brothers and sisters.”
Some airlines however have already suspended flights to those countries known to be affected. It is reported that there is no cure for the Ebola disease and 90% of infected persons die from the complications that emerge.
Doctors advise however that the virus is spread from a wild animal through infected bodily fluids and they indicate that fruit bats are the natural host of the virus.
They say once the animal-to-human barrier has been crossed, human-to-human transmission occurs via contact with any infected bodily fluid, in much the same way as the initial animal-to-human transmission.
The time period between contracting the disease and showing symptoms ranges from between two and 21 days.
The symptoms include a sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and a sore throat.
This tends to be followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.
The Chief Medical Officer indicated that their assessment is that in the unlikely event that they have a case, it will arrive via an aircraft and they have the necessary measures in place to deal with such matter.
Part of those measures explained Martin, is the monitoring work of the Port Health Units at the two airports in the country, which also cover the sea ports.
Immigration he added also has a role to play because they know, in advance, who is on every aircraft and where they are coming from.
Dr. Martin assured that the health team is now rehearsing its procedures to make sure that all agencies are synchronized locally and with overseas associate bodies like WHO, CARPHA and PAHO.
This is now the deadliest outbreak of Ebola since the first known appearance of the disease in 1976.