Czech Army’s Biological Protection Centre to be put on alert for Ebola emergency

Czech Army’s Biological Protection Centre to be put on alert for Ebola emergency

As the number of suspected Ebola cases in Europe mounts, health authorities and hospitals on the continent are bracing for a possible outbreak of the deadly disease. After four suspected cases, none of which proved to be Ebola, the Czech Health Ministry has proposed introducing screening for passengers from affected countries at Prague’s international airport and has requested activating the Defense Ministry’s Biological Protection Centre in Těchonín.

As fears of Ebola mount, the Czech health authorities are stepping-up security measures and preparing for the possibility of a larger number of infected patients. Although Vaclav Havel International Airport has no direct flights to and from Ebola-stricken countries in western Africa, there have already been four suspected cases in which the person in question had either met with someone from a high-risk country or recently travelled to a country in the stricken region.

According to Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček the measures now in place –which include a specialized bio unit for two patients at Prague’s Bulovka hospital and a stand-by regime at Prague’s international airport are no longer enough.

“We think the time has come to activate the Biological Protection Centre of the Czech Ministry which would be able to take in and treat more cases of Ebola should such an emergency arise. We also think that it would be good to follow the example of some other European states and introduce screening of passengers from the affected areas at Prague’s Vaclav Havel International Airport.”

The measures would involve assessing passengers’ recent travel history, who they have been in contact with, and a possible medical assessment conducted by trained personnel. If and when the screening would be extended to other airports and railway stations depends on the situation.

A health worker takes a passenger's temperature with an infrared digital laser thermometer at the Felix Houphouet Boigny international airport in Abidjan

The director of the Czech army’s biological protection department Michal Kroca said on Monday the military was ready to activate the Biological Protection Centre at the government’s request. The center, which was modernized at the cost of 1.8 billion crowns in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, has so far seen no major challenge. It has 28 beds for patients with highly infectious diseases and the capacity may be doubled should the need arise. There are also one hundred quarantine beds. At present the center has 30 employees, trains doctors and conducts specialized research. Daniel Kostoval, state secretary at the Defense Ministry explained what the center’s activation would entail.

“We have agreed on the need to activate the center and essentially that means setting up mixed teams of civilian and military medical staff. The center is fully equipped and ready for action but the military alone does not have enough specialized medical staff to run it in the event of an emergency. We will need to put together mixed teams of military and civilian doctors and nurses who would be coordinated and ready for action on the orders of the National Security Council.”

The proposed measures will be put to the National Security Council on Wednesday and if approved should go into effect immediately.

source and info: Radio Prague

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