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21 November 2014

New SMS text system to strengthen Ebolavirus monitoring

WA Health's ability to quickly detect and respond to possible cases of Ebolavirus disease (EVD) has been bolstered with the development of a new monitoring system.

The initiative, developed by WA Health's Communicable Disease Control Directorate, will help public health staff monitor the health of anyone who has recently returned from an EVD-affected country.

Communicable Disease Control Director, Dr Paul Armstrong said the system would complement other monitoring protocols already being undertaken by WA Health.

"The early detection of EVD symptoms is critical to ensuring a person receives appropriate care as quickly as possible," Dr Armstrong said.

"It also allows public health physicians to immediately implement plans to ensure any risk to the wider public is mitigated immediately."

Dr Armstrong said that if a person had been infected with Ebolavirus they would develop symptoms between 2 and 21 days after their exposure to the virus, so it was vital to closely monitor people during this period

"One of the early signs of EVD is fever (raised temperature), which if detected promptly will ensure people receive the appropriate medical care as soon as possible," Dr Armstrong said.

"Under this new system, at-risk individuals will be provided with a digital thermometer to take their temperature twice a day. Individuals will also be sent a reminder text message twice a day asking them to report their recorded temperatures.

"If at any time, an elevated temperature or other suspicious symptoms are reported, public health staff will perform a risk assessment, and if indicated, will isolate the person from others and arrange safe transport to a designated hospital for assessment."

The SMS text messages will stop 21 days after the last possible exposure, at which time individuals will no longer be required to report back to the Department of Health.

Dr Armstrong said while the risk of EVD in WA remained low, WA Health was well prepared to manage and treat any suspected or confirmed cases.

"Over the past month, public health staff have been working with clinicians across the metropolitan area to strengthen procedures around personal protection equipment as well as to review their current infection control protocols," Dr Armstrong said.

"A Statewide training and education program in the proper use of personal protective equipment has also been developed and is currently being rolled out throughout metropolitan and regional hospitals."

 

Ebolavirus quick facts

  • Ebolavirus is far less contagious than the viruses that cause the flu or common cold.
  • Ebolavirus is not spread through the air, water or food.
  • Ebolavirus can only be caught through direct contact with infected body fluids such as blood, vomit, faeces, urine, semen, sweat or saliva.
  • Humans are not considered to be infectious to other people until they develop symptoms, such as fever.
  • There have been no cases of EVD in Australia and the risk of an outbreak remains low.
  • More information at www.health.wa.gov.au

 

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