Health authorities in Dominica say they are putting more measures in place to screen for the deadly Ebola virus although the risk of entry remains low.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Johnson, said the Health Ministry is to focus on the island’s port of entry with public health nurses being placed there.
Furthermore a number of isolation sites have been identified in case someone with the disease enters Dominica.
“In terms of our port of entries we are stepping up our screening,” he said. “On our main port of entries, we have the presence of health officers who works very closely with the immigration officers. As part of our plans we will be stepping up presence with public health nurses at our ports of entry.”
He mentioned that an ‘alert card’ is to be put in place and very soon running graphic images of the disease will be on monitors at the airport.
He stated further that a number of educational sessions on the disease have already been held for healthcare providers.
“Educational sessions in terms of what is Ebola and how it is transmitted and how it is managed,” Dr. Johnson said. “We also have a structure set up, a monitoring committee that is made up of stakeholders from the Ministry of Health. We also have persons from agriculture, the Ambulance and Fire Services, Police and Dominica Air and Seaport Authority. So we have a broad stakeholder mechanism.”
He stated that one of the critical components of planning for Ebola is being able to identify a suitable isolation area for those infected.
“We have identified a number of sites. We cannot say, as we speak, that we have everything in place in terms of an isolation unit,” he stated. “One of the critical areas we need to address is to ensure that there is access to the other resources.”
Dr. Johnson noted that since Dominica does not have direct flights from any of the countries where the virus is occurring, the risk of entry is low.
“The risk of a sick person traveling on a flight is also low,” he stated. “Given the sought of flight arrangement that we have from affected countries, we don’t have an international airport and a lot of the travelers pass through a second and even a third country, so it is very unlikely that someone who is sick with the Ebola virus would actually come to Dominica through direct flights.”
According to him, the health department is in direct contact with World Health Organization (WHO) which gives updates on the virus.
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever, is 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 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 faeces.
Symptoms include; fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, external bleeding and rash.