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Griffith: No need to panic over Ebola

By Rachael Espinet Wednesday, August 27 2014

click on pic to zoom in
Health authorities and members of the country's protective services meet at the National Operations Centre, Knowsley Building, Dundonald Street, Port-...
Health authorities and members of the country's protective services meet at the National Operations Centre, Knowsley Building, Dundonald Street, Port-...

There is no reason for panic over the Ebola virus. This was the assurance given by National Security Minister, Gary Griffith, yesterday at a press conference at the National Operations Centre (NOC), Knowsley Building, Dundonald Street, Port-of-Spain.

“I wish to state firstly that there is absolutely no reason for fear or panic. There is a reason for us to be cautious. We are just being very proactive. We should not wait for things to happen. It is very important that we prepare now than we prepare later,” Griffith said.

Griffith said the country has a coordinated continency plan to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus if it ever enters the country. To date there has been no case of Ebola in the country.

The agencies which are involved in the coordinated contingency plan include the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of National Security; the Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority; the TT Police Service; NOC; the TT Fire Service; the TT Defence Force; the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM); the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO); the Customs and Excise Department; the Immigration Division and the Prisons Services.

Griffith said the National Security alert state on Ebola has remained at green. However, the effort taken by the committee is to be prepared in the event of a case of Ebola. He said, “There is absolutely no reason at this time based on the threat assessment for it to escalate.”

Griffith assured that all of the country’s ports of entry are being secured and all persons entering the country are being screened for the illness.

Ebola is not an airborne infection and a person cannot contract the disease by being in the same enclosed area as an infected person. The virus is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.

Ebola is a severe, acute, viral illness often characterised by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.

People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus.

The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is two to 21 days. Griffith said persons who display Ebola-like symptoms will be screened at all ports of entry in the country, including airports and seaports.

Griffith said the ministry is also working with the Coast Guard to improve coastal protection and ensure that illegal entries are minimised.

Persons who are entering the country from areas where the infection is prevalent will also be screened. In the past, people were flagged for Ebola by their passports and not their travel itinerary. Ebola outbreaks have occurred primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests. The four countries affected by Ebola at present are Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.

While there are no cases of Ebola in the country, health care professionals who would be treating potential cases were advised not to panic as the necessary precautions for their safety will be taken at the country’s hospitals.

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