The Ministry of Health said on Tuesday that it has sent two samples to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for confirmation that a Nigerian in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has malaria, a mosquito-borne infectious disease, as local tests have shown.
On Monday, there was an Ebola scared at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital — the nation’s main healthcare facility — when a Nigerian student checked in there.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache said that because of the current surveillance system for Ebola, the Ministry of Health was “able to quickly determine that this person does not meet the criteria to be considered as a suspect case.
“Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution, the Accident and Emergency Department at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital was temporarily cleared of all ambulant patients for a brief period this afternoon,” the Ministry said in a statement on Monday.
On Tuesday, the ministry said in a statement that while the risk of Ebola coming to SVG “remains low”, the ministry continues to remain vigilant and also continues to ensure that measures are in place for early detection, immediate isolation and containment to prevent spread, clinical management, contact tracing and additional Ebola educational campaigns to keep citizens informed.
“The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment can confirm at this time that two required blood samples have been sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for confirmation. However, in-house spot testing has confirmed the diagnosis of Malaria,” Communications Officer Neeka Anderson-Isaacs said.
Anderson-Isaacs said there are several steps that are followed to keep SVG ready to deal with the unlikely event of Ebola.
“In this regard, persons who have travelled to countries which are said to have widespread Ebola transmissions, e.g. Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and others, in the last 21 days are identified.
“In our response, these travelers will be monitored for symptoms of Ebola. Consequently, sick persons will be isolated and their contacts traced. As part of the preventative process, direct contact with body fluids of the suspected person at risk for Ebola avoided, and hands constantly washed,” Anderson-Isaacs said in the statement.
“The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment reiterates that there is no case of Ebola here in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“However, citizens are assured that all is being done to contain and manage the current case of malaria. The diagnosis of this individual has been confirmed by in-house testing, and further confirmation will be provided from samples which have been forwarded to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
“The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, therefore, encourages citizens to practice safe hygiene through regular hand washing, in order to prevent the transmission of viruses, parasites, diseases and harmful bacteria that can cause major illness.
“Moreover, several health care workers have been trained, and the Ministry continues to host lectures for a range of organizations and stakeholders, including staff of the E.T Joshua Airport, St. Vincent Ports Authority, Passports and Immigration Department, Department of Maritime Administration, LIAT and the Ministry of Tourism etc, the SVG Tourism Authority, Taxi Operators, among others.
“The Ministry continues to collaborate with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency to ensure efficient management of operations in this regard,” Anderson-Isaacs said.
The Ebola scare came just over a week after the ministry announced that it has discontinued the use of the questionnaires which passengers were required to fill on arrival at ports of entry in SVG in light of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
On Nov. 26, 2014, the Cabinet granted approval for the discontinuation of the entry requirement of a negative PCR Ebola test for all persons travelling from Nigeria to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as recommended by the Ministry of Health.
Cabinet had in August authorised the Ministry of Health to require that a negative PCR Test to be submitted at all ports of entry in SVG by persons travelling from Nigeria, as a part of the national response to Ebola.
In September, the Ministry of Health said four Nigerian students who were being held in isolation after they arrived in SVG without medical certificate proving that they do not have Ebola, but had not displayed any symptoms of any illness.
The students, who were enrolled at All Saints University and the American University of St. Vincent, arrived in SVG over a three-week period, Keizer-Beache said then.
In October, SVG announced a “complete ban” on visitors from Sierra Leone, and Guinea, the two West African nations that have been severely affected by the Ebola virus.