HEALTH Minister Dr Duane Sands.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Ministry of Health is enhancing its Ebola preparedness protocol after the World Health Organisation declared a recent outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern”.
Health Minister Dr Duane Sands said yesterday that though it is highly unlikely the disease will be seen here, it’s imperative that health officials prepare for any possibility.
The Ebola crisis has been accelerating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where more than 500 children have died in the last year.
Dr Sands said: “The World Health Organisation put out a directive that this was a public health issue of international importance so all member countries had to modify their preparedness plans.
‘We had a national Ebola policy that was dated 2014, so what we’ve been doing is meeting with all the stakeholders. We just had our fifth meeting by video conference with Andros, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama, Bimini, customs, police, immigration and it’s just discussing the strategy for identification, isolation, notification and how the Bahamas would respond in the unlikely event of a patient with Ebola making its way to the Bahamas.
“The risk is low but we have to be prepared. It’s important that you bring best practices into effect, you need to retrain people and teach them how to put on personal protection equipment. They need to discuss where the isolation spots will be if needed, determine what an immigration officer should do, or customs officer or police officer in the unlikely event they encounter a visitor with Ebola and it really is a matter of educating, educating, educating.”
Officials are in the process of selecting isolation centres on every island. Since the Ebola outbreak of 2014, health professionals have learned a lot about how to manage the disease, Dr Sands said, noting vaccines are now available although their general use has not been sanctioned.
“The Ebola vaccine even though it is being used has not been approved,” he said. “It is not sanctioned for general use even though it is being used in Congo and surrounding countries with good results. We don’t know all we need to know about safety and efficacy but you have all this drama about vaccines in general. When you have a situation where you have a diseased that carries a 50 to 90 percent risk of death, we tolerate side effects from a vaccine but if you now talking about using it globally you need to know what the risk is.”