Cabinet approves Ebola prevention measures, sends aid to west Africa

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BANGKOK, 15 October 2014  The Cabinet of the Thai Government has approved Ebola virus control measures involving all sectors, and plans to send assistance to countries affected by the virulent disease in West Africa. The Government stressed the importance of correct procedures in patient care, in the wake of the transmission of the disease to some healthcare workers in Western medical teams assisting in the crisis area, said a government official.

The Minister of Public Health Prof. Dr. Ratchata Ratchatanawin, along with the Director-General of the Department of Disease Control (DDC), today held a press conference at Government House after the cabinet meeting, to announce the measures being taken in Thailand against the Ebola virus.

The cabinet has acknowledged the current situation of the Ebola virus epidemic and has approved the prevention and control measures as proposed by the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), as well as approved a plan to send financial assistance and medical equipment to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone as requested by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN).

The Minister of Public Health said that even though it is unlikely there’ll be an Ebola virus infection in Thailand, the matter cannot be neglected. The Ministry has been working with related agencies in Thailand to closely monitor the situation and has declared the Ebola virus a dangerous contagious disease under the Contagious Diseases Act.

The declaration grants authority to healthcare workers to efficiently screen and track travelers from the epidemic areas. Currently, 2,126 persons have been screened and have been confirmed as uninfected. No case of infection has yet been found in Thailand.

The MOPH has also been working with medical schools, and international organisations such as the WHO and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to set up a fast and efficient monitoring and control system, as well as providing patient care and referrals.

There are five measures of Ebola prevention and control. First, the establishment of monitoring systems in humans and animals with screening at disease control stations, hospitals and communities. Second, the patient’s care and infection prevention in hospital by patient isolation and strict infection control. Third, the development of laboratory tests on which the Department of Medical Science has been working with universities and related agencies to establish a national laboratory network that can test and identify the virus, with results known in 24 hours. Fourth, communication to the public of correct information concerning disease prevention. And fifth, the full cooperation of related sectors and the establishment of an emergency operations center at the DDC, that will be the center of operations nationwide should an Ebola infected patient be identified.

Furthermore, the MOPH has established a patient referral system to operate in 30 provinces, as people from the epidemic area might travel to Thailand by air, sea, or over land. This will boost community confidence that the country is ready, if any person infected with the Ebola virus arrives in Thailand.

According to the WHO’s report on 8th October 2014, there are 8,399 Ebola patients worldwide, resulting in 4,033 deaths, or about 50 percent. Infections are widespread in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

There are also cases in the United States and Spain, where healthcare workers in West Africa were infected with the Ebola virus. Experts say that they might have become infected when removing their personal protective equipment. The MOPH will refer to this as a case study for healthcare workers to be aware that the protective equipment must be used accordingly to the directions.

The public plays a great role in Ebola prevention. The MOPH has asked the public to avoid travelling to countries with an Ebola outbreak. Should any person travel back from an epidemic area, or know someone who has returned here within the last 21 days, they should report to a hospital as soon as possible for disease monitoring and for the immediate treatment of the traveler if infected.

The Ebola virus is transmitted through blood, lymph glands, and bodily fluids. The virus cannot be transmitted through the air or be contracted by breathing. Healthcare workers are among those most at risk of infection.