Health officials in The Bahamas are on alert following an outbreak of Ebola in The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands.
Ebola is a rare but deadly virus that causes fever, body aches, and diarrhea, and sometimes bleeding inside and outside the body.
As the virus spreads, it damages the immune system and organs, causing levels of blood-clotting cells to drop which leads to severe, uncontrollable bleeding.
Sands’ comments followed reports of a Delta Airlines flight in the United States en route to The Bahamas being stopped after discovering a passenger had travelled to Uganda, which was confirmed by the minister.
“…We live in a world of Ebola, and there are international health regulations that define what constitutes a risk or hazard,” Sands said.
“The Democratic Republic of Congo is epicenter of the current Ebola outbreak. This has now spread to Rwanda and Uganda. So, when persons are identified as potentially having fever, [having] constitutional symptoms, and they have traveled to an area where there have been documented cases of Ebola, it now triggers a number of protective mechanisms.”
He further explained that the entire world is trying to contain what he calls a “very serious public health risk”.
In July the World Health Organization (WHO) identified the current situation in The Democratic Republic of Congo as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).
The declaration followed a meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Ebola in the DRC.
In a release, the committee cited recent developments in the outbreak, including the first confirmed case in Goma, a city on the border with Rwanda, and the gateway to the rest of DRC and the world.
In light of this, Sands said, health officials have to be very mindful.
“So, the Ministry of Health has engaged many of the agencies in The Bahamas to learn to identify persons who could potentially be patients at risk for Ebola,” he said.
“We’ve trained immigration personnel, customs, police officers, health officials and so on and so forth. We live in a difficult and dangerous world, and this is not something you can take lightly.
“Imagine what happens if a patient with Ebola makes its way into the United States or Great Britain, or to The Bahamas.”
Sands assured that the “public health warriors” are out every day to ensure that the public is safe.
He said: “We have had no cases of Ebola. We don’t want any cases of Ebola. We don’t want any more cases of measles, but these international health regulations are there to protect the public.”