Sick tourist sparks Ebola scare

A medic in a hazmat suit wheels the patient into the Cayman Islands Hospital on Monday morning. - PHOTO: CHRIS COURT

Patient diagnosed with stomach flu

A medic in a hazmat suit wheels the patient into the Cayman Islands Hospital on Monday morning. - PHOTO: CHRIS COURT
A medic in a hazmat suit wheels the patient into the Cayman Islands Hospital on Monday morning. – PHOTO: CHRIS COURT

Medics in protective “hazmat” suits transported a sick tourist to hospital on Monday, sparking a brief unfounded Ebola scare in the Cayman Islands.

Public health officials confirmed by noon on Monday that the female visitor did not have the deadly virus.

They said emergency medical services had donned the protective suits and followed Ebola management protocols as a “precautionary measure.”

The woman, who traveled to the island from New York, had called 911 to report that she was suffering from fever, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weakness and sweating – symptoms associated with the virus, but also with a host of other far less serious illnesses.

The patient had not been to West Africa and had no suspect travel history. She was still in hospital Monday afternoon, reportedly suffering from stomach flu. No quarantine or other protective measures were deemed necessary once the facts of her condition were established.

“The measures we took were precautionary,” said Minister of Health Osbourne Bodden. “We took every precaution in our response to this report. The symptoms did not mean that this individual had the Ebola virus. Those are symptoms that can be related to a number of things.

“We enacted the precautionary measures the government and the Health Services Authority have in place. Public safety is and will continue to be our primary goal.”

EMS responders complied with protocol to pick up the patient from a home in East End, Lizzette Yearwood, CEO of the Health Services Authority said.

“One EMS staff member who assessed the patient at home and provided care and support utilized the protective measures against any body fluids,” she said.

Based on the further details given to medics and consultation with the Caribbean Public Health Agency it was agreed that she did not meet the “Person Under Investigation” criteria a specified by the Centers for Disease Control, Ms Yearwood added.

The Caribbean Public Health Agency said Monday morning that the patient’s travel history did not meet the criteria to be indicative of Ebola.

She traveled nine days earlier from New York City and indicated to medical staff that she had not traveled outside of the New York area before arriving in Cayman.

A doctor in New York, who had just returned from treating patients in Guinea tested positive for Ebola on Thursday, sparking concerns in the city and setting off a search for anyone he had been in contact with since his return from Africa.

According to the woman’s travel history, she would have already been in the Cayman Islands by the time the New York patient reported experiencing symptoms. People infected with Ebola cannot spread the disease until they begin to display symptoms, and it cannot be spread through the air.

Ms Yearwood said there were no specific concerns about travel from New York. A travel ban is currently in force for anyone who has recently visited the affected area of West Africa.

The Health Services Authority has two certified staff to deal with Ebola, according to its statement.

“While Ebola concerns have become an international issue, the Cayman Islands Government has a history of not only overseeing local precautions, but the Public Health Department routinely communicates with international agencies such as the Caribbean Public Health Agency, the Pan American Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Public Health England,” the statement added.

“Should the Ebola virus reach the Cayman Islands, these organizations have promised technical assistance with regards to the deployment of human resources and supplies.”

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  1. The Health minister Mr Bodden and his team and the medics from the EMT must be congratulated for their quick response in quickly attending to this situation which had already began to have the people in a tense situation.
    However the travelling public should continue to exercise extra caution when travelling overseas, because like the saying goes, we never know, besides here on island we must remember to continue washing hands and keeping our surroundings’ sanitized. Especially in our schools.

  2. Based on this photo it looks like the medical staff are not wearing ‘hazmat’ suits but simple disposable paper coveralls and they are also not conforming to current PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) guidelines for handling possible Ebola cases because they are wearing goggles rather than full face shields.