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Jersey doctors provided with Ebola guidance

08 October 2014

Guidance has been circulated to Jersey doctors to ensure that the Island is prepared for any incidences of the Ebola virus.
Although the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has reached unprecedented proportions, the risk to travellers and people working in affected countries remains low. Nevertheless, there is a real – albeit low – risk that an individual incubating the virus may travel to another country and become unwell there.
All Jersey doctors – GPs and hospital-based – have received guidance from the Health and Social Services Department (HSSD). This advice was first issued in July 2014 and advises a high level of suspicion in the event of any unexplained illness with fever in individuals who have travelled from affected areas, or who for any other reason may have been exposed to Ebola infection. The advice has been kept under review and regularly updated.
Doctors have been advised on the procedures for recognition of any possible suspect cases: the first step being urgent contact with the Consultant Microbiologist, Dr Ivan Muscat. For health care workers looking after any patient with possible infection, and for laboratory staff handling specimens, HSSD guidance also includes advice on stringent infection control precautions whilst diagnosis is pending.

Close and frequent contact with disease experts

In the event of an individual being considered at high risk of Ebola infection, HSSD would be in close and frequent contact with national communicable disease experts from both the NHS and Public Health England. Should there be a positive case of Ebola, the intention would be to transfer the infected individual for specialised care in the High Level Isolation Unit in England. Such a transfer would be under the guidance of UK experts and involve the use of a special air transport isolator.

Dr Susan Turnbull, Medical Officer of Health, said “Since the emergence of the current outbreak earlier in 2014, we have been, and continue to be kept regularly abreast of the national and international situation by our UK networks: be it the Chief Medical Officer, Public Health England or via the Emergency Planning routes.

“The chances of a person arriving in Jersey, after exposure in an infected area, but before they have developed symptoms cannot be ruled out. That is why we have been working hard to be as well-informed and well-prepared as possible. I would like to stress that this risk is still considered very low; lower here in Jersey than in mainland UK because of the extra time delay in reaching Jersey from affected areas, usually via UK or EU hub airports. Please be assured that if we find ourselves dealing with a probable case, we would be working hand-in-hand with our UK expert colleagues to ensure that the patient receives the best possible care and that risk to others is minimised.”
Dr Muscat added “The Ebola virus is transmitted through close and direct physical contact with infected bodily fluids, the most infectious being blood, faeces and vomit.  It is not an airborne infection – like a flu virus. It is not transmitted from person to person in any normal social or domestic situations.
“The incubation period of Ebola virus is between two and 21 days, although the typical time from exposure to infection, to a person developing symptoms is only seven days. It is also important to be aware that people incubating the virus are not infectious to others before they have developed symptoms, and that we also remain as vigilant as ever for the more common tropical infections which also cause fever, such as malaria.”
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