Providing protective gear for aid workers in Ebola crisis

Regular readers of this column will know that Durbin has many business divisions, one of which has a long history of coordinating relief shipments in emergency situations.

We have all seen on television the devastating effects of the Ebola crisis. Ebola is one of the deadliest diseases known to humans and is transmitted through direct contact with the blood, body fluids, or tissues of infected people. The current outbreak has already killed over 2400 people, including several aid workers and medical staff who have gone to the affected countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia to help the local people.

The international community has joined forces to try and contain the spread of the virus and many humanitarian agencies have sent emergency medical aid. Durbin has also been extremely busy providing many of the vital supplies the aid workers require, including coveralls, goggles, boots, gloves, special protective gowns, aprons, antibacterial wipes and even baby milk.

While the aid agencies carry out their work in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the World Health Organisation is working with neighbouring governments on preventative and precautionary measures to keep the disease from spreading further. An emergency committee convened by the director general of the WHO said all countries should provide travellers with information on the health risks, the measures to minimise them, and advice on managing potential exposure to the disease.

In the Middle East, the Gulf Cooperation Council has met to discuss the implications of the virus and to draw out a unified strategy to combat it. As a result, Saudi Arabia has advised its citizens and residents not to travel to the affected countries until further notice. Stringent measures have also been implemented at airports in an attempt to prevent Ebola virus patients entering the region. Additionally, some airlines have cancelled flights to the affected regions, including Emirates who suspended flights to Guinea.

Screening was particularly rigorous in Saudi Arabia where millions of Muslims travelled to perform the Umrah and Haj pilgrimage. The Saudi health ministry took steps to train personnel at all ports of entry to help them identify and deal with Ebola cases and over 7000 pilgrimage visas from the infected West African countries were cancelled. Pilgrims from neighbouring countries were also closely monitored to prevent any potential spread of the virus.

There is currently no licensed treatment for the Ebola virus although several experimental treatments are being developed and some have shown promising results. The WHO’s panel of medical ethicists has said that these drugs should be fast-tracked into clinical trials and made available for compassionate use.

But what can be done in the meantime? Well until a treatment becomes available to the mass market, prevention is the best way to deal with Ebola in the interim. And, as it is not an airborne virus like flu, medical experts say that avoiding it should therefore be quite straightforward: 1) wash hands often with soap and clean water 2) avoid touching anyone suspected of having Ebola 3) do not touch a dead body where someone has died from Ebola, even as part of a burial ceremony 4) avoid eating bushmeat such as bats and monkeys as scientists believe this is how the virus was first transmitted to humans 5) don’t panic – there have been cases of people being abandoned when they are suspected of having Ebola when in fact they are suffering from something else.

Hopefully with the pharma community concentrating their efforts, a treatment for Ebola will be available soon. Until that time comes however I’m proud that Durbin is able to play its part in helping to keep aid and medical staff on the ground safe by providing the protective clothing that they need to go about their work to prevent the spread of the disease.

Durbin PLC is a British company based in South Harrow, London. Established in 1963, the company specialises in supplying quality assured pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and consumable supplies to healthcare professionals and aid agencies in over 180 countries. As well as reacting rapidly to emergency situations, Durbin PLC responds to healthcare supply needs from local project level to national scale programmes.

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The Roche Column

GMU and Roche Diagnostics partner to launch the Complete Automation Project

At Gulf Medical University (GMU) in Ajman, United Arab Emirates, Thumbay Labs recently inaugurated the much awaited Complete Automation Project at the Centre for Advanced Biomedical Research and Innovation. Attended by the Crown Prince of Ajman, HH Sheikh Ammar Bin Humaid Bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, this new fully automated laboratory is the latest initiative in the growing portfolio of Indian entrepreneur Thumbay Moideen.

Commenting on the launch, Moideen noted: “We already have labs in Sharjah, Dubai, Fujairah and Ajman. In addition to this, we’re building six clinics under the Thumbay brand in the UAE. With the inauguration of this lab, the plan is to continue growing our strong network of clinics and labs. It’s an ambitious plan, but our strategic plan is called Vision 2020, which aligns with the government’s thinking, and this lab’s growth is only a part of it.”

The Thumbay Group is listed among the Top 100 Companies making an impact in the Arab World by Forbes Middle East. The aim for Gulf Medical University is to develop and offer state of the art innovation to the country’s citizens, and ultimately the wider region, whilst also becoming a reference lab in the UAE. The Laboratory’s Director, Dr. P K Menon, MD PhD shares this sentiment, noting that the lab is a rarity for medical institutions not just in the country, but all over the world.

“In many university centres of excellence, you’ll find certain equipment, an atomic absorption instrument for instance, in one lab. Then you’ll have to go to another to find an HPLC, and yet another to find a GCMS. What we’ve done here is we’ve managed to combine all this super-specialty equipment under one roof and within walking distance of each other. We did this because we wanted to enhance the university’s reputation from just an education-based institute to one that also provides an important service to the community. Now, patients who need super specialty testing need not travel abroad,” said Menon.

“Setting up a lab of this complexity and sophistication required the help of multiple partners, including the likes of Zahrawi, Gulf Scientific, Life Technologies and Roche Diagnostics. To give an indication of the contributions and support our partners have provided, Roche Diagnostics for example, played a very significant role in setting up the chemistry analysers and the automation, which along with the POCT will handle almost 70% of our testing in a highly accurate and reliable manner,” noted Menon.

Both Menon and Thumbay also commented on the growing interest in healthcare in the country, with both noting the increased investment in the sector on the part of the UAE’s government as part of their long-term strategic vision. A recent report by the US-UAE Business Council put the UAE’s healthcare spending in 2013 alone at $16.8 billion.

“Healthcare and education make up the largest part of a country’s budget. The UAE’s government is spending heavily on these sectors and as a private organization, we’re doing our part to contribute to this. I see it headed in a very positive direction,” said Thumbay.

“Soon, everyone will be covered by insurance, which means that now they’ll have access to high-quality healthcare. I think this is a big step, with the immediate implication being that one does not have to rush abroad to get advanced treatment. In addition, as insurance coverage and local high-quality facilities offering sophisticated testing, diagnostics and treatment become more readily available and accessible the country will be able to attract experts from all over the world, because ultimately, you need high-quality facilities expertise. Only then can we take that next step, and make the UAE a top destination for medical tourism - I don’t see that being too far way,” said Menon.


 Date of upload: 16th Sep 2014


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