ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Chief Medical Officer, Dr Rhonda Sealey Thomas, said she does not believe the chances of the Ebola virus reaching Antigua &Barbuda’s shores is imminent, but the authorities are putting systems in place to deal with it since constant global travel makes the spread a possibility.
In an interview on yesterday’s Voice of the People programme, the health official said, “With regards to putting things in place, we have to make sure we intensify the barrier nursing and personal protective wear and that precautions are taken so those caring for ill persons don’t get into contact with bodily fluids.”
As a result, she said, health officials have made a decision to ensure they have a supply of equipment, gloves, masks and gowns among other things that may be necessary in the event it reaches Antigua & Barbuda.
Ebola is currently an epidemic in three countries in West Africa – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – killing hundreds since the outbreak started in April.
Experts have said the first several days of the illness are critical, with most deaths from the disease occurring between the eighth and 10th day. Initial flu-like symptoms can lead to external haemorrhaging from areas like eyes and gums, and internal bleeding which can lead to organ failure.
The virus, it has reported, kills up to 90 per cent of those infected, with patients having a better chance of survival if they receive early treatment.
Roughly two-thirds of the Ebola patients in the current outbreak in the three West African countries have died. The incubation period for Ebola lasts between two and 21 days.
While the disease isn’t airborne, it is easily transmissible through bodily fluids exchanged even through skin contact. Sealey-Thomas said the viral load in the bodies of the dead is also high hence those who handle the dead are also at risk of contracting the virus.
She stressed that there’s no vaccine available for Ebola and there’s no definitive treatment for it, therefore treatment is mainly supportive care.
“Treatment would be given for the symptoms like the fever, dehydration but there’s nothing to actually cure the Ebola,” the doctor said.
Today, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) and leaders of the affected nations are expected to launch a joint US$100 million response plan aimed at tackling the virus that, up to midday yesterday, had claimed about 729 lives.