ISLAMABAD: The federal government, with assistance from the UN, provinces and Pakistan Army, has chalked out a comprehensive plan to tackle the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) – in case of an outbreak in Pakistan.
Minister of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination (NHSRC) Saira Afzal Tarar chaired a meeting in Islamabad on Wednesday to chalk out a plan.
“Though Pakistan has low risk of Ebola transmission, but it is all set to deal with the fatal disease which has so far claimed over 4,000 deaths across the globe, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO),” she said.
Tarar said that although no case of Ebola had been reported in the country so far, the government had taken measures to provide guidance, advice and capacity building to the people to prevent, identify suspect cases, and manage the infected cases as per WHO guidelines.
“All major airports across the country have been directed to take essential measures to screen passengers coming from Ebola-affected countries, while public hospitals have been directed to establish separate isolation wards for the treatment of its patients.”
The minister added that the army was also looking after all of its officers coming from Ebola-affected countries.
“About 8,000 Pakistani soldiers are deployed as United Nations peacekeepers in African countries and army has informed us that they are regularly screening all those soldiers who are coming from there to Pakistan.”
Tarar said the government would keep a special check on all entry and exit points of the country, where as the provinces have been asked to immediately report to the federal health ministry if a case is reported from their region. In this regard, all provincial and federal health departments have been directed to nominate focal persons on EVD coordinating body.
However, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Javed Akram said PIMS had yet to receive any directions.
“So far, the administration of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) has not received any directions from the federal government to establish an isolation ward for EVD,” he told The Express Tribune. “PIMS has taken this initiative on its own.”
He added that a team of doctors comprising medical staff has also been trained to look after Ebola patients.
Earlier, a meeting was held in the Ministry of NHSRC which was attended by the representatives of the WHO, UNICEF, provincial health departments and Civil Aviation Authority, among others.
According to the press statement, the meeting decided to notify a coordination body with representation of all partners and stakeholders while responsibilities were also assigned to undertake major tasks.
The health minister stressed on high quality training for health officials, CAA staff at the entry and exit points of all airports.
She also directed the provinces to identify hospitals in each province and federal level with isolation rooms for Ebola patients.
Tarar also ordered to initiate an awareness campaign throughout the country and include community level participation.
Further, the WHO committed to carry out extensive training for the staff, while UNICEF Health section committed to support the government in developing a comprehensive Communication Plan and IEC material for Ebola virus awareness across the country.
WHO declared Ebola as International health threat in August 2014.
On Tuesday it said that the death rate in Ebola epidemic raging in west Africa has reached around 70%. The number of cases is continuing to spiral in the three hardest-hit countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.