Central America Prepares to Treat Possible Ebola Cases

Central America Prepares to Treat Possible Ebola Cases

By Dialogo
November 26, 2014




Technical specialists from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) gathered on November 18-19 in Panama City for a workshop to develop capabilities in risk communication and to improve response plans for the Ebola virus in Central America and the Caribbean.

“We are treating this Ebola health alert as an opportunity to improve our preventive health system and to prepare ourselves for the appearance of possible cases in Latin America,” said Brayna Brennan, PAHO’s special risk communications advisor, who underscored that communication when faced with this type of threat is essential to earning trust and calming the public.

“It is very important, when faced with these challenges that test the world’s public health systems, that the authorities do not hide information and provide quick and accurate alerts to the public, so that people trust what the authorities say.”

Delegations of technical experts in epidemiology and communications from the ministries of Health in Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Panama participated in the conference in order to share experiences, review and improve plans established in each country, and establish similar response protocols for treating possible Ebola cases.

PAHO is working together with all countries in the Americas to provide technical assistance and provide guidance on their plans and preparations. The same workshop will be held in Quito, Ecuador on December 9-10, for attendees from South America.

By the end of October, there were 4,877 deaths as a result of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, where there have been 9,936 confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition, there are 444 confirmed cases of infection among health workers.

Partnerships with the media


“Nothing can be hidden in today’s world. Everything is known because of social networks, so hiding information is not an option. We must understand that it is necessary to say what the public needs to know. Not what the authorities want to say, but what the public demands to know,” said Vilma Gutiérrez, a PAHO communications specialist.

One of the goals of risk communication is to convert the media into an ally to broadcast information as transparently as possible.

“If journalists know what the disease is like, how it is treated, how it spreads, then they can publish accurate information for the public. The idea is to avoid, at all costs, publication of rumors that only serve to cause mass panic.”

To that end, the first step is to prepare and inform healthcare personnel about misinformation so that they can correct it through the media.

Panama at the forefront with its Biosecurity Ward


“WHO and PAHO have recognized that the Central American region, and Panama in particular, have complied with all of the guidelines and have made the necessary efforts to respond to any Ebola-related event that may occur,” said Itza Baraona de Mosca, general director of the Panamanian Ministry of Health (MINSA).

Under those guidelines, authorities on November 19 opened a Biosecurity Ward at the 24 de diciembre Hospital that is fully equipped to treat possible cases of the Ebola virus.

Nearly US$1.5 million was invested in this ward, and it is equipped for any treatment or procedure, from the time the patient arrives at the hospital, to the ambulance entryway, elevator and hallway to be used to move within the hospital, to isolation and biosecurity.

“An entire floor was refurbished, not just a ward. If no Ebola case occurs, Panama will still have an emergency plan in place for any eventuality, with alignment of purpose and coordination among its institutions. That was a weakness before,” said Rafael Pérez, coordinator of the interagency commission created to manage Ebola cases in the region.

“Panama is responding rapidly to this need for preparation. We have been very satisfied because now we can see some points of departure to focus on and support, together with PAHO, with missions of experts so that the country can further improve its capabilities to deal with possible Ebola infections,” said Dr. Nelson Arboleda, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Central America Regional office (CDC-CAR).





Technical specialists from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) gathered on November 18-19 in Panama City for a workshop to develop capabilities in risk communication and to improve response plans for the Ebola virus in Central America and the Caribbean.

“We are treating this Ebola health alert as an opportunity to improve our preventive health system and to prepare ourselves for the appearance of possible cases in Latin America,” said Brayna Brennan, PAHO’s special risk communications advisor, who underscored that communication when faced with this type of threat is essential to earning trust and calming the public.

“It is very important, when faced with these challenges that test the world’s public health systems, that the authorities do not hide information and provide quick and accurate alerts to the public, so that people trust what the authorities say.”

Delegations of technical experts in epidemiology and communications from the ministries of Health in Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Panama participated in the conference in order to share experiences, review and improve plans established in each country, and establish similar response protocols for treating possible Ebola cases.

PAHO is working together with all countries in the Americas to provide technical assistance and provide guidance on their plans and preparations. The same workshop will be held in Quito, Ecuador on December 9-10, for attendees from South America.

By the end of October, there were 4,877 deaths as a result of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, where there have been 9,936 confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition, there are 444 confirmed cases of infection among health workers.

Partnerships with the media


“Nothing can be hidden in today’s world. Everything is known because of social networks, so hiding information is not an option. We must understand that it is necessary to say what the public needs to know. Not what the authorities want to say, but what the public demands to know,” said Vilma Gutiérrez, a PAHO communications specialist.

One of the goals of risk communication is to convert the media into an ally to broadcast information as transparently as possible.

“If journalists know what the disease is like, how it is treated, how it spreads, then they can publish accurate information for the public. The idea is to avoid, at all costs, publication of rumors that only serve to cause mass panic.”

To that end, the first step is to prepare and inform healthcare personnel about misinformation so that they can correct it through the media.

Panama at the forefront with its Biosecurity Ward


“WHO and PAHO have recognized that the Central American region, and Panama in particular, have complied with all of the guidelines and have made the necessary efforts to respond to any Ebola-related event that may occur,” said Itza Baraona de Mosca, general director of the Panamanian Ministry of Health (MINSA).

Under those guidelines, authorities on November 19 opened a Biosecurity Ward at the 24 de diciembre Hospital that is fully equipped to treat possible cases of the Ebola virus.

Nearly US$1.5 million was invested in this ward, and it is equipped for any treatment or procedure, from the time the patient arrives at the hospital, to the ambulance entryway, elevator and hallway to be used to move within the hospital, to isolation and biosecurity.

“An entire floor was refurbished, not just a ward. If no Ebola case occurs, Panama will still have an emergency plan in place for any eventuality, with alignment of purpose and coordination among its institutions. That was a weakness before,” said Rafael Pérez, coordinator of the interagency commission created to manage Ebola cases in the region.

“Panama is responding rapidly to this need for preparation. We have been very satisfied because now we can see some points of departure to focus on and support, together with PAHO, with missions of experts so that the country can further improve its capabilities to deal with possible Ebola infections,” said Dr. Nelson Arboleda, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Central America Regional office (CDC-CAR).


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