Government prepared to tackle Ebola outbreak – Chris Fearne

Parliamentary secretary for health Chris Fearne dispels fear of an Ebola outbreak in Malta, says island is equipped and prepared to tackle disease

Parliamentary secretary for health Chris Fearne has insisted that despite the remote eventuality of an Ebola outbreak in Malta, the country is well and equipped and prepared.
Parliamentary secretary for health Chris Fearne has insisted that despite the remote eventuality of an Ebola outbreak in Malta, the country is well and equipped and prepared.

Health parliamentary secretary Chris Fearne has insisted that while Malta runs a very low risk of an Ebola outbreak – which in itself has been described as an “international public health emergency that requires an extraordinary response” – Malta is prepared to tackle any such situation.

Despite the government’s reassurances and the fact that the Ebola outbreak has only been limited to West African countries with inadequate health systems, 15% of MaltaToday respondents to a survey carried out by this newspaper have described the fear of an Ebola epidemic as the “biggest threat to world peace and security.”

The current outbreak of Ebola began in Guinea in March, and has since spilled over to Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and more recently in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The outbreak has so far seen 2,615 reports of Ebola infections, as well as more than 1,400 people deaths, and with no licensed treatment or vaccine for Ebola, the World Health Organisation has warned that the situation is likely to get worse.

Dispelling fear of any outbreak in Malta or the Mediterranean, Fearne said on PBS's Reporter that Ebola is only transmitted if one comes into direct contact with bodily fluids or blood of an infected person; however the virus cannot be transmitted by aerosols or through water and food. 

He said that notwithstanding Malta’s immunity from the Ebola outbreak, the country was "taking all the necessary precautions at airports,” and other points of entry.

One such precaution is the health authorities’ warning to Maltese travelers intent on travelling to countries where Ebola has been confirmed: the public has been advised to avoid non-essential travel to the West African nations to limit possible exposure to affected areas with Ebola.

The outbreak has also seen the neighbouring Libyan health ministry warn that the country’s porous borders amid the ongoing war could lead to persons infected with Ebola to enter the country undetected.

“Despite the remote eventuality of an Ebola outbreak in Malta or someone infected with Ebola in Malta, the government is taking this seriously. We have been taking all the necessary precautions since May.”

“If there is a case of Ebola in Malta, the country is well prepared and equipped to tackle it. There is also great synergy between health unions and the opposition in the unlikely case of an outbreak,” Fearne argued.

ALS ice bucket challenge

Dubbing the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) bucket challenge as a “major marketing success,” the parliamentary secretary argued that its success is serving as a platform to highlight other diseases and illnesses that have seen society behold their effects.

“Apart from creating awareness on ALS, the bucket challenge has also served as a platform to create greater awareness on cancer, and other diseases,” Fearne argued.  

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) - the lethal neurodegenerative disorder also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease – has grown in awareness thanks to the ice bucket challengem which has seen the United States’ ALS association receive over $70 million in donations.

“ALS is an incurable condition and a rare disease that affects two persons from 100,000.  It attacks the nervous system of the body, before eventually leading to paralysis and death, and unfortunately, as yet, no cure has been found.”

“Currently, 15 people are suffering from the disease in Malta. Until some time ago only a couple of doctors knew of the disease, but now thanks to this campaign, awareness has increased,” he said.