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Ebola workshop prepares for the worst

Monday September 14, 2015 Written by Published in Health
From left, nurse Teariki, WHO consultant Danielle Ballantyne and chief nursing offi cer, Ngakiri Teaea at the workshop. From left, nurse Teariki, WHO consultant Danielle Ballantyne and chief nursing offi cer, Ngakiri Teaea at the workshop.

The Cook Islands is fighting fit should the deadly Ebola virus reach our shores thanks to a three-day workshop at Rarotonga Hospital last week.


The workshop was run by World Health Organisation (WHO) consultant Danielle Ballantyne, with the aim of  preparing various groups in the community for dealing with the potential of outbreaks of infectious diseases in the Cook Islands.

The workshop is a training initiative of WHO’s Infection Prevention Control unit, with a focus on the Ebola Virus.

The Ebola virus has claimed around 7000 lives during the current epidemic in West Africa, the largest outbreak since the virus was discovered nearly 40 years ago.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 18,000 people have been infected during the outbreak.

Ballantyne says while an Ebola threat in Cook Islands is almost zero, many of the training concepts can be applied to other infectious diseases.

Cook Islands chief nursing officer, Ngakiri Teaea, requested the training after herself and former director of Public Health, Dr Rengi Fariu, took part in a regional training workshop last year.

In December of last year, Ballantyne says the spread of the Ebola epidemic out of Western Africa was quite large and therefore WHO organised for 21 countries and territories of the Pacific to attend the training.

Various groups, including health staff and bio-security staff, took part in the three day training which finished on Wednesday.

They spent about two days learning the theory of different concepts involved in managing an Ebola case.

Ballantyne says they discussed what would happen if a case turned up in the hospital or the airport, and the special equipment they would need to observe.

On the final day, they were taken through a simulation to put their theory into practise.

“The simulation went really well, all the participants were motivated and enthusiastic and as a trainer that makes such a difference,” Ballantyne says.

Chief nursing officer Teaea says she requested the workshop so the doctors and nurses could have further training, and so WHO could assess their level of preparation.

She says they wanted WHO to assess not just their Ebola unit, but also the emergency department.

“The workshop has been really useful. It has given more competence and confidence to our staff in managing a suspect or confirmed case.”

Ebola is a serious infectious illness which often proves fatal.

The virus, which is thought to have originated in fruit bats, was first detected in 1976 in an outbreak near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

People are infected when they have direct contact through broken skin, or the mouth and nose, with the blood, vomit, faeces or bodily fluids of someone with Ebola.

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa are the countries worst affected by this outbreak, which was identified as Ebola in March 2014.

Nigeria and Senegal have confirmed a small number of cases, and the US has had three confirmed cases.

In October, a nurse in Spain became the first person to contract the virus outside of West Africa.

While the Cook Islands is unlikely to come across the disease, health staff are now as prepared as can be should a threat arise.