NASSAU: The Government of the Bahamas has denied reports that a vessel docked at Freeport that had arrived from Africa was carrying persons suffering from the deadly Ebola virus.
A statement from the Ministry of Health noted that the authorities had been notified of the vessel’s arrival and that no one was allowed to leave until the tests were carried out.
“The vessel was evaluated by the surveillance team on the island and in the investigation it was discovered that the crew had been out to sea for more than 21 days, the established incubation period for Ebola Virus Disease.
“Additionally, after medical evaluation on board the ship, no persons were found to be ill, or to have any symptoms related to Ebola Virus Disease. It was then declared that there was no established risk to the population’s health related to Ebola Virus Disease or otherwise,” the statement said.
The Ministry of Health described the Ebola virus “as a severe disease characterized by sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat which may be followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function and in some cases both internal and external bleeding”.
It said that while the World Health Organization has recommended persons to avoid unnecessary travel to Ebola affected countries, those who do travel to affected areas should ensure that necessary precautions are taken to avoid exposure.
“Returning travellers who experience any of the above mentioned symptoms within 21 days of arriving home should consult their health care provider immediately or contact the Surveillance Unit,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the government says it has assembled a task force to ensure that the Bahamas is prepared in the event of Ebola cases entering the country.
“This task force, which includes a cross-section of professionals and experts from various agencies of government and the private sector, has been organized in order that we ensure that in the face of this calamitous disease – Ebola – reaching our country, we would be poised to provide maximum protection and assistance to our people and visitors alike,” said Prime Minister Perry Christie.
Christie said that the Bahamas has decided to keep its border open for tourism and the government has taken the necessary steps to mitigate undesirable results.
“We are not going to compromise the health of Bahamians but we must recognize that 70 per cent of our economy is dependent on our tourism industry,” said Christie. “Given this reality and the fact that we have put in place the necessary protocols needed to protect our people, I am satisfied that we will be ready in the event of exposure to the disease.”
Health Minister, Dr. Perry Gomez, said the Bahamas has a reliable track record in dealing with incidences and medical crises.
“We have some of the best medical professionals, doctors and healthcare workers in the region,” he said. “We were the first to eradicate measles in the region and were able to control the spread of the recent Chikungunya fever outbreak, resulting in us having one of the lowest incidences of the disease.”