WHO: Ebola in DR Congo still a “global emergency”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamas remains on “high alert” for Ebola since the outbreak of the virus in Democratic Republic of Congo where it remains classified as a “global emergency” despite slowed confirmed cases in recent weeks.
Ebola is an infectious and often fatal illness that is transmitted to people from animals and spreads through human-to-human transmission.
In an interview with Eyewitness News Online, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said: “We have been in the process of doing a number of sensitization training sessions with customs, airport, immigration, and health. That process was only interrupted by Dorian.”
Dorian decimated the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco in early September.
Since the passage of the storm, droves of good Samaritan organizations and personnel from the regional and international community have travelled to The Bahamas to provide relief and aid assistance in the search and rescue effort, and ongoing recovery and restoration phase.
When asked about an increased potential for the virus to reach The Bahamas’ shores given the influx of widely-travelled relief workers, Sands said the Ministry of Health has closely paid attention to their travel history.
“If you have been in an area where Ebola — so, if you are talking about the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania etc. — red flags go off,” the minister said. “And so, we are able to catch that. The issue is historical information, presence of absence of fever or any of the symptoms typically associated with Ebola, and they are very non-specific, but when you combine that with travel history, then that’s when the flags go off.
“The current international standard is not to restrict travel for persons who have been in these areas, so the idea that you are not going to allow someone from the DRC or Uganda, but If they have a combination of symptoms and fever and travel history, then yes.”
It was pointed out that not all ports of entry and airports in The Bahamas are beneficiaries of biosensors, an analytical device with multiple modules, including a bioreceptor, a transducer and a detector with a digital output.
The minister noted that self-reporting is key.
He also said symptoms exhibited by the virus are far from subtle and a patient must be symptomatic to become infectious.
“When you are symptomatic, you feel as if you are going to die, so the international standard is to not restrict people on the basis only of travel,” he said.
Last Tuesday, the Ministry of Health reported a case of Malaria involving a 26-year-old Bahamian man, after he went to the hospital with symptoms of fever, headache, vomiting and diarrhea on October 20.
The ministry noted the patient had no evidence of bleeding.
He was isolated until his condition substantially improved.
Yesterday, Sands confirmed the patient was removed from isolation and was “recovering”.
Last Friday, the world’s first Ebola vaccine developed by U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co. was recommend for approval by European drug regulators.
The move has been hailed by WHO.
According to an October 18 Reuters publication, the vaccine protects against the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus, a strain that most commonly causes outbreaks.
The outbreak of the virus in the Congo has killed more than 2,100 people since July. It is considered the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history.