Author Topic: Ebola: NZ isolation wards on stand-by  (Read 934 times)


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Ebola: NZ isolation wards on stand-by
« on: October 19, 2014, 04:31:13 AM »
Isolation wards at hospitals around the country are on stand-by around the clock in preparation for the possibility of a patient carrying the deadly Ebola virus arriving in the country.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) this week said the death rate from outbreak has risen to 70 per cent as the number of those killed by the virus nears 4500.

WHO assistant director-general Dr Bruce Aylward this week said West Africa could face up to 10,000 new Ebola cases a week within two months if the world's response to the Ebola crisis wasn't stepped up.

Wellington Hospital infectious diseases specialist Dr Michelle Balm said regional and district health officials had tailored a response plan in the wake of the crisis.

An isolation unit had been established when the hospital was redesigned in 2008, she said.

"It's over and above what we need. It was built for any kind of highly communicable disease, so it would stand a flu pandemic just the same as it will be used for this."

The unit had four rooms, one of which was being kept empty and on stand-by at all times for the event of a patient possibly suffering from Ebola, Dr Balm said.

Similar units were on stand-by in Auckland and Christchurch.

Wellington's DHB had also been working to up-skill a designated group of staff across the hospital on how to deal with the virus and had increased its stocks of personal protective equipment -- of standards higher than recommended by the WHO.

Staff had also been undertaking drills on how to safely put the equipment on and more importantly, how to take it off without risking contamination, Dr Balm said.

"We have to prepare for things we don't know about yet. Our plan will evolve as we know more."

Canterbury DHB chief medical officer Dr Nigel Millar said it had been working with regional agencies and Christchurch Airport and was prepared for a suspected case should one arise.

"Our border agencies are already identifying people who may have come from an area of concern and are working closely with health to ensure that any suspect cases would be quickly transported by St John's ambulance and isolated by our infectious disease team at Christchurch hospital.

"These staff have practised and are skilled at infection control. They have all the expertise and equipment they require should a suspect Ebola case present at the airport," Dr Millar said.

More than 60 people have been screened at New Zealand airports since heightened measures were introduced in August, but no cases had yet caused any concern.

Prime Minister John Key this morning said New Zealanders should not be overly worried, but should exercise caution travelling to countries where the virus had established.

"If they do travel to countries that have got Ebola, or for whatever reason they seriously believe they have been in contact with someone that has got that disease, then they should report to authorities straight away."

Mr Key said health facilities were on stand-by around the country and the Government would take further steps if the situation worsened.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed 47 New Zealanders were registered as being in Ebola-affected countries.

Source, The New Zealand Herald.