Health keeps close watch on Ebola outbreak overseas

The Chief Executive Officer of Health, Leausa Toleafoa Dr. Take Naseri talking to the media today

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA: THURSDAY 09 OCTOBER 2014: The Ministry of Health (MOH) is keeping a closely monitoring the latest developments of the deadly disease Ebola now spreading in the United States of America.

Although there were reports of a case in Perth, Australia and Hawai’i, MOH Chief Executive Officer Leausa Dr. Take Naseri said it has not been confirmed.

But the closeness of these two reports and the United States cases has kept the Samoan health officials on the alert.

Before the Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) conference last month in Samoa, MOH put into place a strategic plan to monitor all delegates to the conference especially those traveling from Africa where the outbreak of Ebola were reported from.

“That same plan is still in effect as we monitor the Ebola epidemic,” Leausa said in a media briefing today.

According to Leausa, in crisis like this, isolation units are set up at the international ports.

“At Faleolo airport, if a person is suspected to be a carrier of the virus, he/she is isolated then transferred to the Faleolo hospital for monitoring,” said Leausa.

“Once a person is affected, they can only live for 8 hours at the most,” Leausa explained.

Samoa being far from where the epidemic is spreading, by the time that person gets here, his rating is low in the system and hard to detect.

He used the case of an African man that got through to the United States undetected and is now spreading the virus fast on the mainland.

He said the protection gears donated by the US Army Reserve during SIDS will come in handy for the health employees should Ebola virus reach our shores.

Because Samoa has not yet been affected by Ebola, the best cure for everyone at the moment is to be aware of the danger the virus poses.

“We need to inform and give out Ebola information to the public,” said Leausa.

The people’s best protection is to know and understand the deadly effect of the Ebola virus.

Warnings are also given to those traveling to conferences and missions overseas, said Leausa.

The United States with high technology and more resources than Samoa is fighting against time to find a cure for the virus.

“It is a contagious disease,” said Leausa.

He said a cure was tested unsuccessfully on a patient in Spain.

He said one consolation for Samoa is that “we no longer have direct flights to Los Angeles.”

“But we should not overlook the international port at American Samoa where US flights from Hawaii have direct flights to and from,” warns Leausa.

The Chickungunya virus was passed on to Samoa from a traveler from American Samoa so it is only appropriate to keep a closer watch on our neighbours.

New Zealand, Australia and Fiji are the only countries with direct flights to Samoa and Leausa said their Ministry is working on adding more specific questions to the questionnaire for travelers to Samoa.

The best advice, is not to take the risk as heeded by the Manu Samoa sevens team that recently declined traveling to play in a Kenya sevens tournament.

“We need to give out as much information to the people for their awareness and understanding,” said Leausa.