Mr. Speaker, I wish to update this honourable house and the people of Jamaica on some important developments in public health over recent days and weeks.
As at July 17, 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). That outbreak started in 2018.
The Ebola Virus Disease formerly known as Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever, is a rare but severe and oftentimes fatal illness in humans. Since 1976, there have been 10 outbreaks. The 2018 outbreak has been protracted and has now extended to the main commercial centre in the DRC.
The WHO has determined that though the risk had been high locally in the DRC and is now also high for the African region, the current global risk remains low. Jamaica is, nonetheless, preparing for any eventuality.
As such, the Ebola Virus Disease Response Plan, implemented in 2015, is being activated to increase awareness and educate stakeholders. Mr. Speaker, we are also:
- Undertaking specialised training and retraining of relevant stakeholders, including Immigration and Customs personnel, Port Health Staff, Public Health Departments, Clinical Care Teams and all persons who may, handle specimen.
- Enhancing surveillance at Points of Entry to the island through sensitisation and screening.
- As well as reviewing clinical protocols for Management and Infection Control practices.
Mr. Speaker, we are also reinforcing our laboratory response capabilities and preparing isolation areas at our public health facilities. Back in 2015, we had procured Personal Protective Equipment, which were distributed to hospitals.
We also put in storage emergency stock at the Ministry’s Central Stores. We are now doing an inventory of these items and additional items will be procured as required.
The public can be assured that the current response arrangements are in place to enable an appropriate response in the event Ebola Virus Disease is introduced to the island.