“Ebola is an international health emergency” Says health experts

Sarjo Camara Singateh

“Ebola is a highly contagious partogen and as laboratory workers you needCross section of participants Ebola to put all your gadgets on to protect yourself first before taking the sample of any patient or suspect,” said Mr. Bakary Sanneh, Senior Laboratory Scientist at the National Public Health Lab.

He gave this advice when he was addressing participants at a recent Ebola Sensitisation workshop.

Mr. Sanneh told participants that the Gambia has still not seen a single Ebola patient and that the previous two suspects whose samples were taken to Senegal have proved negative. He described Ebola as an international emergency.

The Senior Lab Scientist said the Gambia does not yet have the technical capacity to test and confirm suspected Ebola patients, but that they only have the capacity to collect the sample and isolate the suspected patient and then send the sample to the only WHO Reference Lab based in Dakar, Senegal.

“Here we have category 4 lab which can protect the technician from catching the virus easily, but before collecting the sample you need to send communication to World Health Organisation (WHO) for experts’ advice according to the situation or condition of the person,” he said..

Mr. Sanneh also stressed the importance of the mobile van that was donated by the West African Health organisation (WAHO) which is ideal to take the sample at a protective and closed place given the nature of the Ebola virus. He said instead of collecting a sample and then taking it to a far distance, the van makes it easier and safer for a lab technician to go and meet the patients in order to collect samples.

He noted that there are plans in place to train three laboratory technicians in each region for the decentralisation of sample collection.

Mr. Sanna Sambou, Coordinator of the Epidemiology and Disease Control Unit under the Ministry of Health, explained the work his office is doing and how the ministry is engaged in the fight against Ebola.

The disease control specialist said Ebola which is a haemorrhagic fever that is claiming many lives has now reached international dimension after its reported outbreak in February 2014 in Guinea Conakry. He said since then, they have strengthened their preparedness and response capacities.

  • Mr. Sambou recognised the need for the monitoring of all the border posts to screen people coming into the country rather than passive surveillance which mean to sit and wait for patients at the health facilities. “We don’t want to see hospitals full with patients as a result of lack of control at the border,” he said surveillance is the continuous monitoring of diseases.

He noted that there are nine international borders entering the Gambia that are being manned by security officers, but that there are also many porous parts along the border that also need attention.

Mr. Sambou said so far they have gone a long way in their national strategy, but noted that they still have a lot of challenges as far as resources are concerned. He noted that every ministry has a stake in the fight against Ebola and that intervention would change concerning the circumstance in the sub-region.

Mr. Momodou Njai, Director Health Education and Promotion Directorate at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, disclosed that several youth organizations have approached his department and requested to be trained on Ebola prevention and control and this was how this training came about. He urged the participants to take up the training seriously and spread the knowledge gained. He commended the groups for taking up this noble venture.

For her part, Fatou Njai of Fong4life, one of the participating groups, and who is coordinating the training, said they were involved in blood donation and they have seen the need to train their members and other partners in this emerging disease, Ebola, and also for them to take up the responsibility to train other people in society.

Kura Joof Sonko, one of the participants, also urged colleagues to ask questions as much as they could.

Buba Darboe, the acting Health Communication Manager, for his part, said the new trend that is developing in the health sector is that instead of the health sector going to meet the citizenry, it is the communities who are now meeting the sector and enquiring about their positions. He commended the fong4life and its partners for the giant stride they took.