Health experts from all over the Americas agree to work together if there is an Ebola outbreak in the region. CCTV America’s Michael Voss reports from Havana.
The only reported cases of Ebola in the Americas so far are in the United States which has one of the world’s most sophisticated health care systems. But not everyone in the region has the resources or the know-how to cope. Nearly 300 health experts from across the Americas are camped in Havana this week to look for ways to improve coordination and support. Many of the small Caribbean nations feel particularly vulnerable.
“As individual nations, I think it would be very difficult for any one country in the Caribbean to deal with this sort of threat which is why Caricom and the Caribbean public health agency have been trying to collaborate and coordinate at a regional level,” says Avery Hinds from Caribbean Public Health Agency.
The United States has no diplomatic relations with Cuba and still imposes a trade embargo, but combatting this killer disease takes priority over politics.
“It was a good productive meeting. We have a diagnosis of what is going on in each of the countries, which will allow us to prepare for an improved plan overall for the region,” said Nelson Arboleda from U.S. Center for Disease Control.
One area of concern raised at this meeting is access to specialized equipment and drugs, in particular the modern bio-hazard suits needed to protect health workers. More than 250 Cuban doctors and nurses are now working in West Africa helping to contain the outbreak which has already killed about 5,000 people. The Cuban medics received their safety training in makeshift facilities on the grounds of a medical institute on the outskirts of Havana.
The training facilities at a hospital in Havana will now be opened to others. Starting in early November, Cuba will offer Ebola safety courses for health teams from around the region.
The United Nations says there is no scientific basis for travel restrictions and quarantines on health workers returning from West Africa. A judge in the U.S agrees, rejecting a legal request to limit the movements of a health care worker who returned from Sierra Leone.
CCTV America’s UN correspondent Liling Tan reports from New York with more on the controversy.