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T&T is still not ready for an Ebola outbreak. Dr
Varma Deyalsingh, treasurer of the T&T Medical
Board and secretary of the Psychiatric Association,
said while the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Com-
plex (EWMSC) 12-bed capacity and Caura Hospital s
48-bed capacity announced by Health Minister
Fuad Khan to quarantine people with Ebola was a
good start, it was not enough.
Better containment of the virus, more equipment,
and the training of staff are also required, he said.
Deyalsingh said the health sector s state of readi-
ness against the deadly virus can be gauged by
asking any random patient in the emergency depart-
ment of any hospital how long they had to wait
Speaking to the Sunday Guardian in a telephone
interview on Friday, Deyalsingh said an Ebola patient
has to get up to 20 units of blood per day to save
his life, "and we can t even get two units of blood
to do normal procedures that we have planned, such
as elective surgery, much less cope with an influx of
"In T&T we lack the human and infrastructural
resources to deal with Ebola.
"We have to look at our Carnival, the celebrations,
crowds present ideal conditions for Ebola to spread.
"The virus is just a plane ride away from reaching
T&T, one person can come here and destroy the
whole if he is a viral bomb.
Deyalsingh said there was a consensus among doc-
tors, and the majority of them have said that Carnival
should be postponed.
He said, however, that while there was public edu-
cation on Ebola, the Government was sending mixed
messages---don t stop the Carnival on one hand and
warning about the dangers of Ebola on the other.
'It's like a predatory, molecular shark'
Deyalsingh described Ebola as a predatory, molec-
"It has motive, invades a cell and uses the cell s
genetic material to replicate itself, eventually infecting
and consuming the whole person who will be teeming
with the virus just waiting to spread further."
Deyalsingh said an eye dropper of blood can contain
approximately 100 million particles of the virus.
He said Ebola was like influenza in that "it can
take down a lot of humans." For the majority of cases
Ebola was a virtual death sentence, from the moment
the virus entered the bloodstream, for 70 per cent
of cases, the war was lost.
He said the damage done by Ebola in ten days
took HIV ten years to accomplish.
Thermal cameras to detect
Ebola give false sense of security
Deyalsingh said thermal cameras used to detect
Ebola can give a false sense of security as they can
register false positives.
He said elevated temperature readings can be caused
by another viral illness, such as Chikungunya, dengue
fever, chicken pox and measles.
Deyalsingh said a person taking Panadol can sup-
press the symptoms of a fever and pass the initial
scan or Ebola test.
Ebola treatment and
He said Caura and Mt Hope hospitals
plan for people on T&T s Ebola watch
list was to monitor them for fever. Deyals-
ingh said the incubation period for Ebola
was 21 days and in that time they may
not show any symptoms.
He said proper medical protocols called
for isolation, contact tracing, and to
ensure that health care personnel did
not become the vectors for the virus.
Deyalsingh said infectious patients are
put in an isolation room, and health
workers have to put on protective gear
before entering the room. On leaving the
room their protective gear is burned.
Deyalsingh said patients are put in neg-
ative-pressure rooms that isolate air so
it can t circulate through the building, the
same precautions taken for tuberculosis.
He said the second stage was decon-
tamination under UV lights, but some-
times particles from the protective gear
can escape and cause infection. Deyals-
ingh said the health care workers may
be fatigued and make a mistake during
the decontamination process and infect
He recommended that masks and dis-
posable gloves be worn by staff at points
of entry---airline personnel and immi-
gration personnel handling passports and
documents are at risk.
Deyalsingh also recommended keeping a
distance of three feet away from suspect
individuals, bowing instead of shaking
hands, and be aware of people with a fever.
He said Government s policy for people
on the Ebola watch list to travel to health
centres to be checked twice a day to see
if they developed a fever was not a good
idea. Deyalsingh said it was better to
keep those people at home and to send
a medical team to monitor them, rather
than running the risk of infecting the
population while travelling.
He said incineration was the best method
to dispose of contaminated waste material.
Deyalsingh said the proper disposal of
bodies with Ebola was cremation but
this may present a dilemna in T&T, as
some religions such as the Islamic fate
do not cremate their dead.
He said the danger with the Ebola virus
was its viral amplification jumping from
animal species to man. According to
Deyalsingh, Ebola has been trying to
jump out from its animal hosts and into
humankind for a while now.
Deyalsingh said there was the danger of
animals such as rats coming in contact
with infected, buried bodies. Scientists
do not have enough data at present on
whether this can be spread further.
He said pet dogs of people who died of
Ebola were also killed as a precaution.
Deyalsingh said if the virus reaches T&T
it must be contained at the quarantine
centres. In the worse case scenario of an
Ebola outbreak and Mt Hope and Caura
hospitals are overwhelmed with patients,
the remote island of Chacachacare, once
used as a leper colony from 1922 to 1984,
was an excellent option to quarantine
people with the virus.
Continues on Page A7
...the damage done by Ebola in ten days took HIV ten years to accomplish
Masks, disposable gloves for
airline, immigration personnel
In T&T we lack the human
and infrastructural resources
to deal with Ebola. The virus
is just a plane ride away from
reaching T&T, one person can
come here and destroy the
whole if he is a viral bomb."
--DR VARMA DEYALSINGH
Deyalsingh said Ebola and its precursor, the Marburg
virus, with similar symptoms such as headache, fever
and internal bleeding, originated near Kitum cave, Mount
Elgon in Kenya, where many different species of animals
frequented. He said the cave also bordered Uganda, one
of the first epicentres for Aids. He said the US army also
kept strains of the Marburg virus for its "hot agents" or
germ warfare research.
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