STATEMENT – On August 8th 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”.
This declaration was not unexpected, given the high reported case fatality rate of 50-90% in some of the affected countries.
Ebola is a viral disease which is spread through direct contact with the secretions and body fluids of infected persons or animals. This disease is not endemic to St. Lucia and as such the risk of infection to general members of the public is low.
However, the possibility exists that the disease may be introduced into our island, from a traveler (national or non-national) who may have recently been to West Africa and who may have had contact with infected animals or persons during their stay in West Africa.
In anticipation of this Ebola threat, the Ministry of Health has re-activated, at all of its health facilities, the measures which were employed during the H1N1 pandemic. Isolation rooms have been identified and are being prepared – plans for the re-training of staff in infection control measures are being implemented and surveillance staff have been placed on heightened alert. The private health sector is also involved.
Non- health stakeholders such as border entry personnel, the tourism sector, the pre hospital ambulance service and other stake holders, including institutions with frequent clients from West African countries, have been placed on high alert and will benefit from further sensitization and preparation measures in the coming week.
The WHO has advised that there should be no restriction on trade and travel. As such nationals and non-nationals, who plan on traveling from St. Lucia to the affected West African Countries, are advised to take special precautions in avoiding contact with infected persons or animals during their stay in West Africa. Strict infection control measures should be practiced and on return to St. Lucia they should present promptly to a health facility, should they develop any sign of illness.
Though the threat of Ebola virus disease to the general public is low, persons are reminded to continue practicing general hygiene measures such as frequent hand washing and hand sanitization.
For further information contact Dr. Merlene Fredericks, Chief Medical Officer at (758)285-0128.