Ireland is the latest country to be on full Ebloa alert as fears of the deadly virus spread. Although experts say that risk of infection is low, Irish missionaries or other care workers could bring the disease back with them to Ireland from affected African countries. World Health Organization warns that he spread of Ebloa across Europe is “quite unavoidable.”
Dr Lorraine Doherty, Assistant Director of Public Health, explains, “There is a potential risk for volunteers and healthcare staff working in affected countries, especially if involved in caring for Ebola patients.” She adds, “However, if the basic precautions that would apply in all humanitarian situations are applied and the general principles of infection control are adhered to, the risk can be minimized.”
Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny says, “Ireland is preparing well for this in the event that a suspected case might come to our country and that’s being coordinated by Minister (Simon) Coveney, who has responsibility for the Emergency Response Unit.”
The country’s National Isolation Unit in Dublin’s Mater Hospital is fully prepared in the event an Ebloa case does arrive in Ireland. Dualta Rougheen, an Irish aid worker who will be traveling to Sierra Leone, tells the Irish Mirror, “We’ll be traveling in our own cars, I won’t be taking public transport and I’ll have to be very careful with what I’m eating, eating cooked food and handling.”
“It’s going to be if I’m in and out of the office, washing hands and disinfecting shoes. So there’s a lot you have to do and you have to be very aware and very careful about not even biting your fingernails for example.”
Head of the Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Professor Sam McConkey, feels that, “If we can stop it spreading in West Africa then it isn’t going to come to Ireland, but unfortunately all of the screening in the world and all of the protectionist measures on our borders will not stop people coming in if there are millions and millions of cases on another continent. The world is a very connected place; we’re all traveling all the time.”
While Ireland’s National Isolation Unit prepares, the Irish Medical Organization (IMO) remain skeptical about the country’s health system, Health Services Executives. They say that the system’s Ebola plan is “potentially dangerous” as doctors are unconvinced about the wisdom behind advising patients with Ebola-like symptoms to contact their GP.
Professor Trevor Duffy, the president of the IMO, says, “Obviously everyone in this country hopes that the Ebola virus is a problem that we never have to deal with. But in the event that there are incidents of the virus that emerge here or scares about potential incidents, it is critical that we have arrangements and structures in place.”
Ireland’s doctors also say they’re concerned that there needs to be strong guidelines in place for what happens in an Emergency Department if there is a suspected case.
Ireland is not currently practicing Ebola airport screening.