[www.inewsguyana.com] – Guyana is moving towards establishing an action plan to deal with the Ebola Virus, and in this regard a wide cross section of stakeholders from various organisations met yesterday to establish the measures to be undertaken in order to put the plan into operation.
Participants were drawn from the Ministry of Health, various hospitals, the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Civil Defence Commission, Ministry of Foreign Trade and International Co-operation, Guyana Revenue Authority, Veterinary Public Health, Ministry of Agriculture and the Civil Aviation Department among others.
Minister of Health Dr. Bheri Ramsaran pointed out that Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Shamdeo Persaud had been having discussions with smaller groups which were supported by the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO). The movement to address Ebola, he noted, follows similar moves to address chikungunya and SARs.
Minister Ramsaran said too that even before this meeting, work had been ongoing regarding students in Guyana who came from Africa. However, he noted that checks on them have proved them safe.
“I am happy that you have joined us in this multi-stakeholder approach, and I hope that you will create for us a barrier against the disease penetrating (Guyana), and if we do have cases, we will quickly identify and isolate them, and the good work that you will do today, will allow us to triumph quickly,” the Minister stated.
Spearheading the meeting, Dr. Persaud gave an overview of the disease which he said was 90% fatal. He said that the issue was to spearhead the plans and programmes which are mainly couched under International Health Regulations, and pointed to the need to identify the symptoms.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mariano Bonet, Epidemiologist, PAHO/WHO, giving a background of the Ebola virus pointed out that it is not new but the virus is approximately 40 years old. He lamented the fact that there is still no vaccine or treatment for it. Noting that the response is weak, he stated that it is growing in West Africa and expanding. With an incubation period of 20 days it is a rapid infection which can kill in about two days. Dr. Bonet pointed out that the United Nations has allocated US$500M to stop the virus in West Africa in nine months.
Dr. William Adu-Krow, Representative of PAHO/WHO in Guyana urged that all should be on the alert. He also insisted that rapid detection is necessary to capture the symptoms of the disease. Dr. Adu-Krow added that risk reduction was just as important through the involvement of Customs, Immigration, Police and Travel Agents. He stressed that the travel agents would be able to link travellers to their susceptibility to the disease through their line of travel. The PAHO/WHO representative underscored that the process which would be put in place would be able to be adapted in other situations.
The draft plan addresses five areas. The first for co-ordination and control will see the activation of the national health emergency committee which will hold regular meetings. This committee will develop and approve the action plan and work on the constitution of the national rapid response team. It will also establish communication systems and develop targeted communication materials. This material will include an airport advisory in the form of a poster; traveler’s information in pamphlet form; public information; health care provider information.
The committee will also be responsible for the implementation of WHO’s International Health Regulations (IHR) plan including a Situation Room.
The second area of Point Of Entry (POE) will identify all points of entry into Guyana with the possibility of introducing the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) into the country. The POEs will concentrate on the CJIA and Ogle airports; the Lethem and Moleson Creek crossings and the various sea ports such as Georgetown, New Amsterdam, Bartica, Charity etc. The points of entry will also seek to have personnel ensure that all arrival procedures are in place. This will include aircraft and ship sanitation, general flight declaration including the health sections and the training of flight attendants among other issues.
The POE personnel will also ensure the examination of flight manifests to identify any possible traveller from infected areas and maintain a register of such travellers. They will also meet with persons from the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority and the Airport Authority for establishing control points. Posters for arrival areas at the CJIA and Ogle Airports will also be organised. In addition, they will provide outgoing travellers with information and identify port quarantine facilities at both airports and provide all basic equipment and supplies. POE personnel will also identify and equip ambulances for special transfer of suspected EVD cases.
The third area is clinical preparedness. This will ensure that personnel follow the standard precautions guidelines and implement the infection control plan. They will also meet with hospitals to identify isolation units and train health workers on infection control. Workers will also be trained on clinical management of Ebola.
The fourth area regards laboratory work and will ensure testing to ensure that all differential diagnosis diagnostic testing takes place with feedback transferred to physicians. There will also be moves to identify a reference laboratory and establish protocol whilst establishing guidelines for EVD.
The fifth area deals with epidemiology, public health and prevention. This will strengthen the surveillance for febrile illness accompanied by analysis and reports which includes a case definition. Personnel will also define the target audience and conduct briefings for all health workers.
[Extracted and modified from GINA]