The man at the helm of the Ministry of Health, Julius Timothy, has said that Dominica is ready for the eventuality of the dreaded Ebola virus reaching the island’s shores.
Timothy was speaking at a press conference on Wednesday.
“There are many Dominicans who have been asking about what is Dominica doing in the scheme of things,” he said. “We now have a case in the US and Spain seems to have some cases. We must ensure that this does not happen here, and if, God forbids, that it does, we are prepared.”
Several stakeholders attended the press conference which was held to inform the media and the public on the country’s plans, provide information on Ebola and allay fears.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Helen Royer, said a budget has been approved for the preparedness phase of tackling the disease it if ever reaches Dominica. This includes sourcing protective gear for health workers.
The exact amount of the budget was not revealed.
A series of training sessions has already been convened for the first responders (Health practitioners, staff of the Dominica Festivals Committee etc.) and soon auxiliary workers will be trained.
A hotline has already been tested and tried, officials said, where information on the virus can be easily accessed. The number is 448-2151.
Over 10,000 copies of Ebola paraphernalia have already been circulated to the public.
Plans are also being finalized for a quarantine and isolated area to be used if the disease ever comes to Dominica.
“We have had several assessments of different areas, different buildings and as soon as we get information as to the direct areas that will be utilized as quarantine and isolation, the public will be informed but we are in the process of putting all these things in place,” Royer said.
On Monday, formalized screening will begin at the Melville Hall Airport, according to Royer.
“We have also identified, we have a place, a site at the airport and if we get any persons maybe suspect, we will be having the trained port officers,” she noted. “We also have assigned over 12 public senior health community nurses and persons trained in infection control and we will be starting our screening and that will be at the airport.”
In relation to major acts from Africa coming to perform at the World Creole Music Festival, Chairman of the Dominica Festivals Committee (DFC), Colin Piper, informed that band members must be screened and border control must be “satisfied” before giving them the green light to enter Dominica.
The Ebola virus has been causing havoc in parts of Africa and has spread to other parts of the world.
The virus causes a severe, often fatal illness. Up to nine out of every 10 people with the infection, die. There are no licensed specific treatments or vaccine available for use in people or animals. The time between acquiring an infection and showing symptoms and signs varies from two to 21 days.
The virus is also highly infectious and is spread by person-to-person transmission through direct contact with bodily fluids or secretions of infected persons including blood, sweat, urine or feces.
Symptoms include fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, external bleeding and rash.