Ebola Alert: Cuba´s International Aid
By: Vivian Collazo Montano
Last March Guinea-Conakry reported the first cases of an Ebola outbreak which quickly spread to other Western African countries. Since then, more than 14,000 people have become infected, 5,200 of which have died.
Up to November, three countries were mostly affected: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Others such as the Congo Republic, Nigeria, Senegal and Mali also reported some cases.
The Ebola virus outbreak in this African region is one of the most complex health emergencies of recent years; at least $490 million are needed to try to contain transmission, which, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is growing at an exponential rate. In addition, the organization stated that the number of infected cases is likely higher than what has been recorded to date and estimates that about 20,000 people are at risk. In response to this, most countries have prepared themselves to confront the possible introduction of the virus, among them Cuba, which has developed a plan to guarantee epidemiologic safety in the national territory.
Although no Ebola virus cases have been reported on the Island, border security procedures have increased, pointed out Francisco Durán García, head of the Department of Transmissible Diseases for the Ministry of Public Health (Minsap). He also stressed that there is an emphasis on the safety of the Cuban volunteers who are fulfilling a mission in the affected areas.
In addition, all health workers have been trained in universal precautionary measures in order to address standard operating procedures and bio-safety norms which in turn will be used to prepare diplomatic personnel and other people who require it.
Jorge Pérez Ávila, the director for the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine emphasized that the country has an observation room for travellers who display any symptoms, and he reiterated that the infection is transmitted across bodily fluids such as semen, blood, saliva, perspiration, tears and urine.
Cuba sent several teams to the affected nations prior to the appeals of both the WHO and United Nations´ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to help fight the outbreak of Ebola.
The first group of 165 health professionals left for Sierra Leone in October. The group included 62 doctors and 103 nurses with over 15 years´ experience and who have previously worked in countries affected by natural and sanitary disasters, mostly in the African continent. These volunteers included specialists in epidemiology, intensive therapy, infectious diseases and primary care as well as nurses and health educators. Other teams later came to Liberia and Guinea.
As part of Cuba´s international aid, a meeting for preventing and fighting the Ebola virus in the Americas recently took place in Havana.
Specialists and managers of 34 nations as well as representatives of the Health Pan-American Organization and other international groups participated.
At this meeting it was decided that Cuba would offer the first international course on the prevention and confrontation of the Ebola virus. This course took place from November 10 to 15 with the attendance of approximately one hundred participants from 19 countries from Latin America and the Caribbean.