Major Progress Made on Ebola Emergency Plans – Locally & Regionally

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By Mellica McPherson

This week local and regional Ebola plans were disseminated. The Territorial Ebola strategy was released via the Government Information Service (GIS), while the OECS presented the regional strategy.

Ebola is a severe, often fatal, disease that spreads through direct contact with a sick person’s blood or other body fluids like feces, saliva, urine, vomit and semen. It can also spread through direct contact with objects contaminated by a sick persons’ blood or body fluids or from an infected animal.

It was stressed that as part of the Ebola strategy the Ministry of Health and the Health and Social Service Committee of the National Disaster Management Council are continuing ongoing preparations for any potential impact of the Ebola virus in the Territory.

The public was notified that the subcommittee recently met on Friday 24 October  with representatives from the Ministry of Health and Social Development, Department of Disaster Management, Health Services Authority, Environmental Health Unit, BVI Airports Authority, Customs and Immigration to discuss ongoing plans for the management of the Ebola virus. The meeting was chaired by Medical Officer Dr. Ronald Georges, who has also been tasked with the Health Disaster Management portfolio.

The update revealed that the Health Services Authority completed initial training for Environmental Services staff in the areas of decontamination and disinfection and initial screening has commenced at all clinics.  An isolation area has been identified and equipped at the hospital and screening at all ports of entry were also reviewed.

It was stated that the next steps will include addressing capacity through agreement with private health care facilities and training for medical response and psychosocial teams. Dr. Georges informed that the next step would be to review the procedure for the disposal of dead bodies and infectious waste.  This will be covered as the team reviews the national mass fatality plan.

According to Dr. Georges, the Ministry is in process of launching an education campaign.  “We want to make sure that correct information is disseminated to our populace as well as life saving information of do’s and don’ts, so collectively we can all help to lower our risk to this virus,” he stated.

“At this time we want to reassure the public that a tremendous amount of work is being undertaken, we are training, networking, educating and planning as we prepare for any eventuality of this virus,” Dr. Georges concluded.

Regional Plan

It was announced that this week LIAT transported one representative from the BVI and others from the OECS member countries to Havana, Cuba for a special technical preparatory meeting.

The meeting which was scheduled from October 29th to 30th 2014 is part of the OECS Commission campaign to reduce the threat and minimize the impact of Ebola on the region.

It was announced that regional Air Carrier LIAT offered complimentary seats to core members of each national leadership team from each OECS Member State to Cuba for the meeting.

While in Havana the team is expected to revise the national plans with a view to transforming them into a regional containment plan. The containment plan will provide the complete specifications of the material requirements to support and safeguard the efforts in each national space in dealing with issues associated with Ebola.

According to the OECS, the special technical preparatory meeting in Havana includes a training of trainers’ element. The meeting will also review the national protocols towards ensuring convergence of processes and synergies among the national protocols to ensure cohesion in the region’s response to Ebola.

On Thursday October 23rd 2014, the first address by the OECS Commission to any joint meeting of parliament in the region in recent memory was held, and during that address Director General of the OECS, Dr. Didacus Jules announced that a special swat team is being considered to swiftly respond to any suspected case of Ebola  in the OECS region should the need arise.

USVI  Preparing for Ebola

In consideration of how close the USVI and BVI are, the connection, the saying that if the USVI catches a cold the BVI will sneeze, and because a number of visitors arrive in the Territory via the USVI route, many have been curious to hear of that Territory’s Ebola preparation plans.

Announcement of strides to keep Ebola out of that US Territory were revealed in early October by US Virgin Islands Health Commissioner, Darice Plaskett on October 7. She is reported stating that her Department is arranging with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), local hospital officials, healthcare partners and emergency medical personnel to formulate an Ebola response plan. It was also reported that the Department had a multiagency meeting on the matter.

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