There are no cases of the deadly Ebola virus in Barbados, nor is the island under any immediate threat.

But, Minister of Health, John Boyce, has cautioned Barbadians contemplating travel to West Africa to defer trips where possible unless it is absolutely essential.

The Minister issued this caution today during a press conference at the Ministry???s Culloden Road, St. Michael headquarters, where concerns surrounding the virus and its possible implications for Barbados were addressed.

???Members of the public should be aware that the likelihood of catching the Ebola virus disease is considered very low, unless you???ve travelled to a known infected area and had direct contact with a person with Ebola-like symptoms, or had contact with infected animals or contaminated objects,??? he said.

However, Mr. Boyce gave the assurance that Barbados had a sound public health system with staff trained in infection control measures, which may be necessary to contain any cases of infectious diseases such as Ebola.

He added that the Ministry of Health would strengthen its preparedness measures to ensure that it was in a position to respond if the need arose. ???This includes sensitisation and training of health care workers to update them on Ebola, and to ensure that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to protect the public and themselves,??? the Minister pointed out.

He further noted that Environmental Health Officers and Port Health Nurses would also be conducting surveillance to identify any persons with symptoms, so that the necessary precautions could be taken at an early stage to contain any spread of the disease.

Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Elizabeth Ferdinand, also gave the assurance that there was ongoing surveillance for persons coming into the island, particularly those attending conferences or returning to the island from West Africa.

However, she noted that the World Health Organization had not yet issued any travel restrictions or closing of borders. ??????They are having a meeting that finishes today to discuss that issue, and they will decide what they are going to advise the countries of the world to do. If they say we must close our borders we will have to make the decision if we are going to follow that or not, but at the moment there is no restriction of travel,??? she stated.

Epidemiologist at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Karen Springer, explained that symptoms of the Ebola virus were fever, headache, muscle pain, sore throat and intense muscle weakness.

Symptoms start suddenly between two and 21 days after becoming infected but in most cases after eight to 10 days. Patients may subsequently experience diarrhea, vomiting, a rash, stomach pain and impaired kidney and liver function. They may also bleed internally and experience bleeding from the ears, eyes, nose or mouth.

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