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Havana. October 19, 2014

Director of Pan American Health Organization arrives in Cuba to attend ALBA Summit on Ebola

The director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa Etienne, has arrived in Cuba to participate tomorrow in an Extraordinary Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-Peoples' Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP) on Ebola.

"I am here to share with ALBA presidents and governments PAHO's technical cooperation, and ensure that countries are prepared in the event of any case of Ebola," Etienne told the press after her arrival last night at Havana's José Martí International Airport.

"The likelihood that a case might exist in one of our countries is low. Our objective in the area is to ensure that we detect the first case as rapidly as possible. We need contact and full treatment. And we need to implement necessary measures to prevent transmission of the disease," she explained.

Asked about her expectations for the ALBA-TCP Summit, Etienne indicated that she hopes that an agreement will be reached by member countries to prepare themselves for the eventuality that a case of Ebola might appear.

PAHO, she said, will conduct a dialogue on work done and that which will be done jointly, since the main way to avoid the disease is to control the epidemic in West Africa.

She hopes to have the opportunity to converse with regional leaders to determine what they can do in addition to what Cuba is doing, which she described as "an example of what can be done by a small country to help other peoples."

"We have learned much from what has happened in West Africa, and in the United States, where a second transmission has occurred," she said, adding that these events show that no country can say it is 100% prepared.

She emphasized the need to guarantee the preparation of all kinds of workers, in hospitals, on borders, and even those responsible for the deceased.

"We are advocating for general training, and the identification of clinical professionals who will work directly with patients, and ensure that they receive continuous, intensive training,"  she said.

"I would like to take advantage of the opportunity to congratulate Cuba on its positive response to help mitigate this tragedy in West Africa," Etienne continued, emphasizing the country's positive response to the call for support made by Margaret Chan, secretary-general of the World Health Organization.

"Cuba's contribution is very important and significant," she concluded.


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