Saturday, February 24, 2018

Ebola scare at Piarco

Nigerian flagged by London officials


INFECTED PATIENT: Aid workers and doctors transfer Miguel Pajares, a Spanish priest who was infected with the Ebola virus while working in Liberia, from a plane to an ambulance as he leaves the Torrejon de Ardoz military airbase, near Madrid, Spain, yesterday. About 1,000 people have died from the virus. See Page 29. –Photo: AP

Mark Fraser

There was an Ebola virus scare at Piarco International Airport yesterday after London authorities flagged a Nigerian man, who was travelling aboard a British Airways (BA) flight to this country, as a possible case.

Speaking to the Express last night, acting Chief Medical Officer (CEO) at the Health Ministry Dr Colin Furlonge said this country’s health authorities im­mediately responded and were ready at the airport to swiftly deal with the situation.

However, he said the man  —Sabastina Onwubgeuzie—was examined by a senior doctor at the ministry and cleared. 

Flight BA 2159 originated in London Gatwick, England, then went on to St Lucia before landing in Trinidad before 4 p.m.

Authorities at the airport were alerted of the possible Ebola case via the Joint Regional Communications Centre, based in Barbados, via the Advance Passenger Information database.

According to their website, the database contains a complete list of persons (crew and passengers) on board, inclu­ding their biographic data and carrier information.

Passengers on board the flight were not allowed to disembark the plane while the Nigerian was taken into isolation and examined.

Furlonge said the man, who is married to a Trinidadian woman, poses no risk.

He said the man was born in Nige­ria and worked at the Port of Spain General hospital up to four years ago.

He then migrated to Australia where he has been for the past three years.

Furlonge said the man and his wife came to Trinidad for a three-week holiday.

The man was apparently flagged by authorities in London because he was born in Nigeria. 

“Because they flagged it, we had to take precautions; we are on high-surveillance monitoring and assessing our nation’s airports and other ports of entry,” said Furlonge.

Furlonge said yesterday he met with members of the Defence Force to strategise how to work together to deal with any possible cases of the Ebola virus at this country’s ports.

He said further, a meeting is scheduled to take place next Tuesday between officials at the Health Ministry, National Security and Tourism, as well as other stakeholders involved, to develop a solid strategy in addressing any instances of the virus in this country.

“Because of the nature of the illness, the chances are slim of it reaching this region, but regardless, we must taken precautions,” said Furlonge.

Speaking with the Express yesterday evening, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan, who is currently overseas, said he is aware of the scare and as a result spoke with National Security Minister Gary Griffith about having mechanisms in place for Immigration officers.

Not wanting to say much, Khan said he received news about the incident and is awaiting a report from health personnel.

Earlier this week, in an interview with reporters, Khan said Trinidad and Tobago was well prepared for the Ebola virus.• 

—with reporting by Denyse Renne