PRESS RELEASE – Dr. Marta Arsuaga from Spain forms part of the five (5) member team from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) visiting St. Lucia to assess the islands state of preparedness for the Ebola Virus Disease.
Dr. Marta brings to the team her recent, personal experience with Ebola having the distinction of being one of the doctors who worked directly with the nurse who contracted the Ebola Virus in Spain a few months ago.
Dr. Martha spoke to the communications unit of the Ministry of Health about this experience.
“We have three cases, there two missionaries, one who arrived 7th of August and the other the 23rd of October. While one health worker was treating the sick patients she got ill and she was our third Ebola patient. For us it was the first time we got into contact with this type of illness.”
“We were not afraid or frightened but we were very cautious and when our health worker or partner got ill we became even more cautious. We didn’t know if the PPEs didn’t work or what had happened to her but when we realized she got the illness but not the rest of the team we knew that PPEs work and we could work safely and without any problem.” The Spanish doctor noted.
Dr. Martha went on to say that training in the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is important as PPE’s are very uncomfortable, hot and difficult to work in and one has to work much slower that they are accustomed once suited up. Medical Personnel, she said, must avoid panic but get the facts on the Ebola Virus.
“We know how Ebola transmits from one person to another person, it’s not air borne, you must have close contact with the fluids of the patient so we have to know it and know that PPEs works and a symptomatic patient is not going to transmit the virus. These are three things you have to be clear on.”
“We have to remember its part of our work, like we treat HIV patients we are working with his or her fluids and we are at risk sometimes because if you take a drip to someone you can stick yourself with a needle so this is the same but you must be cautious and ensure you are doing the best you can.”
When asked whether medical personnel directly involved in the care of Ebola patients were allowed to return home at the end of their work day Dr. Martha explained, “In Spain we were allowed to go back home but we have to take our temperature twice a day during 21 days after the last contact with the patient and during the process off-course.”
“So I live with my family and I had to check my temperature in the morning and before going to bed to be sure that I am well and I am not going to transmit anything. If you take care there is no problem…I think that TV and Movies gives a bad idea of Ebola, just twenty percent (20%) of Ebola patients have bleeding.”
“So once you are cautious during your work, use the materials that we have to protect our self that’s it. We have been doing this in Norway, England, US and Spain and we have to know that the three health care workers in the world who got the illness, the three health care workers in the world who got the illness, two in the US and one in Spain recovered and are OK because they were diagnosed very early.” Dr. Martha stressed.”
Dr. Martha in response to the fatality rate for this current outbreak on Ebola in West Africa having first been estimated at ninety percent stated that the rate is now about sixty percent but with early detection and supportive care there can be even better outcomes.”