Victoria is well prepared if a case of Ebola Virus Disease should be suspected and detected, Minister for Health David Davis said today.
“While the risk of importation of Ebola into Victoria is low, Victoria may eventually need to evaluate a suspected case of Ebola in the same way Queensland did last week,” Mr Davis said.
“The Department of Health has developed the Victorian Ebola Virus Disease Response Plan which has now been issued to metropolitan, regional and other health services and stakeholders including general practitioners.
“The plan outlines the exact actions that will be taken by the Department of Health, Commonwealth border agencies, Ambulance Victoria, any health service and in particular the two hospitals that will receive a suspected case.
“The Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) is the designated facility for assessment and management of patients suspected to have a Viral Haemorrhagic Fever such as Ebola virus disease and is fully prepared,” Mr Davis said.
Professor Mike Richards, infectious diseases specialist at the RMH, said the hospital has a Viral Haemorrhagic Fever plan and is equipped to handle such cases.
“The plan requires the patient to be isolated in a single occupancy negative pressure room. Treatment and care would be provided by staff trained to use infection control precautions including specific personal protective equipment,” Professor Richards said.
“The RMH has held joint briefing sessions with the Department for staff and undertaken successful exercises in the careful handling of a potential suspected case.”
The Royal Children’s Hospital will provide care for children aged under 16 years.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Rosemary Lester, has today updated an existing Alert which provides a link to the Victorian Ebola Virus Disease Response Plan.
“The plan provides information to safeguard the health of a suspected case and of staff caring for a case,” Dr Lester said. “The plan contains a simple set of steps frontline clinicians can take should a suspected case present at their service after returning from an affected country.
“Extensive border control measures are in place including questionnaires for people returning from affected countries, and Melbourne Airport is prepared to respond to a suspected case.
“All people returning from affected countries are given a card telling them to look out for symptoms for 21 days and to attend an emergency department or GP if they do become unwell.
“In response to the identification of the West African outbreak of Ebola virus disease, the Department has updated its protocols and plans in line with current evidence regarding the outbreak and actions required to prevent transmission of infection.
“Australia has one of the best border protection systems in the world checking people who are unwell in flight and at the airport.
“Ebola virus disease is a notifiable and quarantinable disease in Australia,” Dr Lester said.
Transportation of suspected cases by ambulance will require paramedics to use personal protective equipment which is standard issue on Victorian ambulances.
Ambulance Victoria chief executive officer Greg Sassella said well-developed plans and procedures were in place to manage complex or ongoing medical emergencies.
“Ambulance Victoria’s plans for such an event were tested and proven during our successful response to the 2009 H1N1 Influenza outbreak,” Mr Sassella said.
“We have had processes in place in preparation for receiving an Ebola case since the Chief Health Officer issued the initial alert and we have been actively involved in the development of the Victorian Ebola Virus Disease Response Plan.”
Management of suspected or confirmed cases is through supportive treatment and isolation.
The Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory has secure containment facilities and is equipped and prepared to test for Ebola virus disease.
Mr Davis said so far the Ebola virus disease outbreak has been confined to a few West African countries.
“But there is always the possibility that a traveller returning from West Africa could be infectious and bring the disease into Australia,” Mr Davis said.