PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Thursday September 11, 2014, CMC – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) while there has not been any case of the deadly Ebola visa in the Caribbean, the region should not rest on its laurels.
“The overall risk assessment remains low risk for the Caribbean region. Be that as it may this is not a time for complacency because of the consequence of an imported case…will be serious for the health of our residents and for the tourism industry in the Caribbean,” said CARPHA executive director Dr. James Hospedales.
Dr. Hospedales told a regional news conference that while the virus for which there is no vaccine is confined mainly to Central and South Africa, his organisation is continuing to monitor the situation and advising member states “to continue their efforts to attain a high level of preparedness for a possible, though unlikely introduction of case to a CARPHA member state”.
He said that this low level of risk “may change as the satiations changes and new information becomes available”.
Dr. Hospdales said that while the risk level remains low “it is important that each member state takes the opportunity to ensure that several mechanisms are in place to mitigate the potential impact of its arrival”.
He said these measures are included in the international health regulations (IAHR) that came into force in 2005 and include appropriate communication messages to be disseminated to the general population, to travellers and to health workers ensuring that people know how to reduce their risks.
“This is key, we will have other problems beyond Ebola in the future, achieving compliance with the international health regulations is the way to be able to be prepared,” he said.
Dr. Hospedales said that while the Trinidad-based organisation will not be able to carry out tests to determine whether a person had contracted the deadly virus, international arrangements have been made with the United States Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the Public Health agency in Canada for such testing.
He said CARPHA is also bolstering regional preparedness by establishing an incident management team here “to facilitate coordination of the regional response.
“We have executed several video and teleconferences with chief medical officers, epidemiologists and laboratory directors… providing answers to questions and queries alongside PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) and the US Centre for Disease Control.
“PAHO will maintain the efforts to keep the Caribbean public apprised of the developments in this area as they unfold and will continue our efforts in facilitating the development of our regional preparedness for the threat of the Ebola virus disease,” he said.
Meanwhile, CARPHA’s Director, Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control Division, Dr Babatunde Olowokure told reporters that while there has also been no report of the West Nile virus in the Caribbean, it is a “potential threat to the region.
“It is another disease which we have to be aware of and which we should be prepared to deal with. It is a mosquito borne disease,” he said.
Dr. Olowokure said CARPHA is in the process of preparing a regional health security plan “and within that we will be encouraging member states with regards to preparedness for what we would term all hazards.
“This would include mosquito borne viruses, dengue and chikungunya have been mentioned here, there are number of others as well and so within that, yes you will include West Nile fever as one of those that CARPHA member states should be prepared to deal with,” he told reporters.