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Urgent action should be taken on Ebola epidemic
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14th October 2014
AUK Staff
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 ...the BMA has called on the WMA to urge the international community to provide the necessary protective equipment and infection control training in order to prevent cross-contamination...
 Dr Vivienne Nathanson
The British Medical Association (BMA) has called on the international medical community to take urgent action to tackle the Ebola epidemic spreading across West Africa.

The World Medical Association (WMA) has unanimously passed a motion proposed by the BMA, which calls for the provision of the necessary supplies and training that those working on the ground need to manage the epidemic, and for the WMA to strongly urge all countries, especially those not yet affected, to educate Health Care Workers about the virus and to strengthen infection control methods, disease surveillance and contact tracing in order to prevent transmission within countries.

The BMA has also written to the Home Secretary seeking reassurances that UK-based doctors can return to their home countries to help provide much needed aid, without fear of their work permit being revoked.

The current ongoing outbreak of Ebola Viral Diseases (EVD) has proven far more difficult to control than previous epidemics, with more than 3,400 deaths and almost 8,000 reported cases across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

A number of doctors based in the UK, originally from areas affected by the Ebola virus, would like to return in order to provide medical help to those affected. However, doctors find it very difficult to travel overseas for longer than a month due to the problems arising over their visas, which they need to have in order to work in the UK.
The BMA is today urging the WMA to:

  • Call on the international community to immediately provide the necessary supplies of personal protective equipment, including gloves, masks and gowns, to protect healthcare workers and ancillary staff and reduce the risk of cross infection. 
  • Call on all those managing the epidemic to commit to adequate training in infection control measures, including personal protective equipment for all staff and caregivers who might come into contact with infective materials. 
  • Call on national and local governments to increase public communication about basic infection control practices
.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, BMA Senior Director, who addressed the WMA conference today, said:

“The current outbreak of the Ebola virus is proving more difficult to manage than previous epidemics and urgent action is needed to help contain it.

“Management of the virus is primarily through infection control, the use of personal protective equipment by health care workers and through the supportive care for sick patients. In order to prevent the virus spreading further it is vital that we stop it at the source.

“We are hearing from doctors who have travelled to West Africa that a lack of training and a severe lack of resources are making the epidemic far more difficult to control.

 It is also essential that we make it as easy as possible for doctors from West Africa working in the UK to be able to return to their home country for a defined period to assist with efforts to stem the spread of the epidemic
 Dr Vivienne Nathanson
“That is why today, the BMA has called on the WMA to urge the international community to provide the necessary protective equipment and infection control training in order to prevent cross-contamination, to call on national and local governments to increase public communication about basic infection control practices, and to strongly urge all countries, especially those not yet affected, to strengthen infection control methods, disease surveillance and ensure we identify and diagnose those who may have come into contact with the disease, in order to prevent transmission within countries.

“It is also essential that we make it as easy as possible for doctors from West Africa working in the UK to be able to return to their home country for a defined period to assist with efforts to stem the spread of the epidemic.

“We urge the Government to make an exception to the immigration rules so that doctors are allowed to travel home for longer than one month without fear that their visa to work in the UK will be curtailed.”


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