The Director General World Health Organization (WHO) Margaret Chan Sends Message to ALBA Summit on Ebola

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(acn) The Director General World
Health Organization (WHO) Margaret Chan, sent a message
to the Heads of State and Government of the Bolivarian Alliance
for the Peoples of Our America-Trade Treaty of the Peoples
(ALBA-TCP) that gathered in Havana for a Special Summit on
Ebola. Cuban News Agency now
reproduces the text of her message:
Greetings from the World Health Organization in Geneva,
I must begin by thanking the Cuban government for giving
the Ebola outbreak response so many highly experienced
Cuban doctors and nurses. I have seen the many news
photographs of these staff in their sparkling white lab
jackets, ready to help. This brings a most welcome face of
hope to what is otherwise a horrific outbreak.
I welcome this opportunity to address members of the
Bolivarian Alliance. I welcome the purpose of this
meeting: you are absolutely doing the right thing. You
want to step up your level of preparedness for an
imported Ebola case on the most urgent basis possible.
WHO working with PAHO are here to support you in any way
we can. Last month the Ebola
virus moved to your region. As experiences in Lagos,
Nigeria in July and now in the USA last month told us, any
country with an international airport is theoretically at risk
of an imported case of Ebola. We must all respect this
Ebola virus, which is one of the most deadly pathogens on
the planet.

This is an unforgiving virus that shows no mercy for
even the smallest mistake. It knows how to exploit every
single opportunity to flare up again or spread to new
areas. The Ebola outbreak in
West Africa is the most severe acute medical emergency
seen in modern times. Well over 400 healthcare workers have
been infected and more than half of them have died.
This has never been seen in any previous Ebola
outbreak. Like other parts of the world, countries in
this region are on high alert for any possible
importation of the Ebola virus in an air traveller.
Hardly a day goes by without rumors of an imported case
at an airport or in an emergency room somewhere in the
world. Governments are
right to bring out the protective suits and gear and
showcase their isolation rooms. This reassures their
citizens and their media crews that the country is
well-prepared to stop further transmission should an
imported case occur. This is understandable. The virus
is deadly. The disease is dreadful.

People are afraid. At the same time, we know that a
well-prepared country can defeat the Ebola outbreak.
On Friday, WHO will declare the outbreak in Senegal is
over. On Monday, we will do the same for the outbreak in
Nigeria, a feat that many health experts still find hard
to believe. But I can assure you WHO has full
confidence in this remarkable achievement.
Countries in the Bolivarian Alliance can and should do
the same. High-level political commitment and country
ownership make all the difference. Train your staff, use
drills to test performance, get protocols written
quickly, put systems in place, get your public and your
media behind you. Engage the community early to fight
fear with facts and understand the fundamentals of
infection prevention and control, especially in
healthcare settings. Protect against
mistakes. As recent instances of transmission of the
virus in Spain and the US show, wearing personal
protective equipment or PPE is not foolproof. It has to
be used in conjunction with excellent administrative,
environmental and engineering controls.
Let me repeat: on its own, PPE is not foolproof.
Last week, WHO issued new recommendations on PPE which
can help governments prepare efficiently and effectively.
As I said, WHO and PAHO are here to support you. I
sincerely wish you a most productive meeting.
Thank you.

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