Julian Bray writes: Its hard to believe that no one has come up with a foolproof system to counteract the spread of Ebola and few of our politicians (at a local level anyway) are taking the threat seriously. Someone raised a question in Council of what to do if Ebola was discovered in our local hospital; a few of the elected members of Peterborough City Council just laughed... that was a few days ago, hopefully they are not laughing now.
But having over the years been lecturing on cruise ships, the current sight of people in contamination suits, goggles and breathing apparatus is nothing new. In any confined environment (such as cruise ships and hospitals) any form of virus can spread like wildfire. So the methodology of isolation and containment is well rehearsed in some quarters.
On the high seas, crew members gave up shaking hands in favour of fist bumps to lessen touching and the transmission of germs. For Ebola we just have to upscale the process by 1000%. Not a really glib comment, as if the cruise lines can go into full protective isolation mode for something as simple as the Norovirus bug, then perhaps the rest of us should sit up and take notice?
On board having identified the passenger(s) they are isolated and EVERYWHERE the infected person and family or companions have been during the previous day is rated as a biohazard. I've seen whole sections of main dining rooms cordoned off, tables, chairs fumigated and linens, cutlery, plates and glasses all bagged up in red biohazard bags and sealed.
A 5 man contamination crew all suited, goggles, helmets and boots with a protected air supply then move in. They fumigate the entire area, all furnishings walls ceilings and the carpets deep cleaned. Simply the system is well regulated and not something that is carried out on land. It is part of the process that crew members do not shake hands, in fact they have been gently fist bumping or saluting for years. Simple but effective ways to eliminate contamination.
But even they have problems getting some clients to self declare and to conform to the enhanced cleaning and hygiene regimes. Hand sanitation at all the entry and exit points to food areas have to be physically manned to ensure passengers do use them and are seen to use them.
Lifts and handrails are problem, so when an outbreak is detected all lift control panels are immediately covered with a transparent sticky backed plastic so hourly disinfecting can be carried out with pump sprayers but the electronics behind the buttons are safe. The constant cleaning teams work a 24 hour day (three squads working eight hour shifts) also add hospital strength sanitiser to the regular non stop cleaning of handrails, and all touch surfaces.
It really is the relentless attention to detail, and solid experience of executing the process, that seems to be lacking on shore in worldwide attempts so far to contain EBOLA. Perhaps if Governments consulted the medical teams on board cruise ships, time, money and countless lives could be saved and threat contained? They do after all have the programmes all mapped out together with training regimes and periodical testing. Why reinvent the wheel? Head for the nearest ship's wheel instead.
JULIAN BRAY [ 01733 345581 ], Journalist, Broadcaster, Aviation Security &Operations, Travel / Cruise Industry Expert, Writer and Coach EQUITY, NUJ, Broadcast ISDN number 01733 345020) SKYPE: JULIAN.BRAY.UK e&oe A later updated version is always on the Website