Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Director Dr. Carissa Etienne addressed concerns relating to the Chikungunya and Ebola viruses during her recent visit to St. Lucia.
Speaking in relation to Chikungunya, the director stated that the virus which is spread mainly by the Aedes aegypti mosquito is not so much a concern as the Ebola virus.
Dr. Etienne said while the virus causes a lot of pain, weakness and put a strain on the health system, a majority of these cases recover from the illness.
“The first line of action into eradicating the issue would be to reduce the breeding sites and the householder must be at the forefront of the fight,” she added.
Dr. Etienne explained that persons should pay closer attention to their surroundings, such as septic tank covers, plant pots, drink bottles, and any container that may house water in and around their homes.
“Everywhere in your house where water is accumulating is a potential breeding site. All the containers in your yard that are collecting water should be removed,” the director advised.
The PAHO director said while the Ministry of Health will play its part in the fogging of communities, greater involvement is needed from the general public to ensure that breeding sites are destroyed.
“We are also advocating for the use of nets of those that are infected,” she added.
However, the PAHO director said the Ebola virus is more serious and calls for greater attention.
“It is an epidemic and PAHO has seen an exponential increase of cases in West Africa,” she explained.
The director said the epidemic has been declared a humanitarian crisis by the United Nations, which is causing food security and liability issues in the affected countries.
“It has overwhelmed totally the ability of the health services to respond to the epidemic and it going to take a huge effort to be able to contain and certainly to stop the transmission of this epidemic,” she noted.
Dr. Etienne admitted that while the risk may be low in this part of the world, there is always a risk that a case would be introduced locally.
The director disclosed however that PAHO and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) have been engaging in works to ensure that its member states have the capacity to deal with any case of Ebola.
The aim is to ensure that countries identify and isolate the virus, and that trained and equipped individuals are there to render assistance to any suspected cases entering via sea or air.
“We are working to ensure that the member states have the capacity to identify the first case immediately and to increase surveillance at our ports of entry,” she said.
In the event of any such cases, Dr. Etienne explained that the region will move to support whatever country is involved and PAHO will draw on its resources to render assistance.
The director said to date they have been no positive reported cases of Ebola in this part of the Americas.