Caribbean healthcare workers must be trained, prepared for potential Ebola cases – PAHO

Digital illustration of Ebola virus in   colour background

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Wednesday October 15, 2014, CMC – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) wants healthcare workers throughout the Americas, including the Caribbean, trained in the use of personal protective equipment and early identification of suspected cases of the Ebola virus disease (EVD).

PAHO’s call comes amid confirmation by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of a healthcare worker who became the first case of secondary transmission of Ebola in the United States.

PAHO also reminded countries of the importance of maintaining surveillance and updating their procedures for any potential introduction of the virus.

The healthcare worker confirmed as having Ebola worked at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Texas, where she had been involved in the treatment of the first Ebola case diagnosed within the United States, who died on October 8.

“Healthcare workers are at high risk of infection with Ebola unless they take adequate precautions,” PAHO said, noting that in Africa, healthcare workers have been one of the most heavily affected groups, with 416 cases and 233 deaths.

It said the virus is not airborne but is transmitted through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people.

PAHO said it is working with its member states in the Americas to ensure preparedness for any possible introduction of Ebola virus disease.

The organization reminded member countries of the need for measures to ensure early detection of potential cases.

These include heightened awareness among both screening personnel at points of entry and healthcare workers on the clinical features of the disease, especially fever, and screening questions about history of travel to Ebola-affected countries or other means of exposure to the disease.

“Healthcare workers especially should be prepared to report suspected cases immediately to the authorities and to implement the necessary protocols,” PAHO urged, reminding countries of the need to strengthen measures for infection prevention and control in their health services, including through training of healthcare workers in the use of personal protective equipment.

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