PORT-OF-SPAIN: The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) says the risk of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) being imported to the Caribbean is low.
“There have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in the Caribbean, and overall, the risk of becoming infected with the Ebola virus in this region remains low,” said CARPHA executive director, Dr. C. James Hospedales.
He said that in countries where the virus is present, people who have direct contact with the organs, blood, or other bodily fluids of dead or living infected persons or animals are at highest risk.
“Ebola spreads through mucous and other body fluids or secretions such as stool, urine, saliva and semen of infected people,” said Dr. Hospedales. “In the unlikely event of a person infected with Ebola travelling to the Caribbean, the available evidence shows that the risk of secondary transmission to direct close contacts (family or relatives) or in healthcare settings is still considered very low, if appropriate prevention measures are implemented. The risk from casual contact, such as shaking hands or sitting next to someone who is not displaying symptoms is also likely to be very low.”
CARPHA said it had evaluated the risk of importation of the disease to the Caribbean following an increase in the number of cases of EVD in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The World Health Organization said that since August 4, there have been 1,711 confirmed cases of EVD and 932 deaths in the four African countries, namely, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
CARPHA said that once basic precautions are followed, the risk of infection is considered to be “very low” for tourists, visitors or residents in the affected areas.
It said that these precautions include avoiding physical contact with patients showing symptoms or dead bodies and their bodily fluids, as well as avoiding unprotected sexual contact with a patient that has recently recovered from the disease.
“As with any other imported disease, Ebola virus is causing a lot of concern in the region,” said CARPHA. “In this regard, CARPHA is committed to supporting its member states to adequately prepare for potential cases and to implement the necessary steps to protect healthcare facilities, patients, healthcare workers and communities.”