CASTRIES – The Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations continues its overall process of readiness to the global Ebola threat by strengthening port surveillance through the inclusion of nurses at the country’s main international airport, the Hewanorra International airport.
Such assistance is also being provided at the George F.L. Charles Airport. Similar arrangements are actively being considered for other ports of entry. The employment of this strategy facilitates the identification and tracking of arriving passengers who may be at risk for exposure to the Ebola virus due to their travel history. 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.
The Ministry of Health has put all health facilities on ‘Ebola alert’ and has commenced the training of health care workers in the management of the Ebola Virus. Isolation rooms have been identified in the relevant institutions and the necessary infection control measures have been instituted. Protocols have been developed in conjunction with other stakeholders to ensure a coordinated approach in the event of a suspected case on the island.
The Ministry of Health has collaborated with the Saint Lucia Fire Service, Customs and Excise, Immigration, Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority to facilitate the coordinated management of the Ebola threat to the island. Ebola sensitization has been done for Customs and Excise in the north and south of the island. Other staff at both airports have been sensitized on the Ebola Virus by the Ministry of Health’s Outbreak and response teams.
The focal points of all of the medical schools and the hotels are working closely with the National Epidemiologist at the Ministry of Health in the surveillance of students and visitors arriving on the island. Such active surveillance will also be extended to religious institutions, other tertiary schools and other entities with frequent clients from countires affected by Ebola.