On the evening of Thursday 27 November 2014, an Ebola emergency simulation exercise was carried out at Luxembourg airport in order to test the procedures planned to manage a probable case of Ebola arriving on the territory of Luxembourg.
Placed under the leadership of the High Commission for National Protection (HCNP), the exercise involved the Department of Health, the Health Inspection Department, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Rescue Services Agency, the Fire and Ambulance Service of the City of Luxembourg , the Luxembourg Hospital Centre (CHL), the Airport Fire and Rescue Department, Luxair, lux-airport, the Grand Ducal Police, the Customs and Excise Agency and the government's Information and Press Service.
This exercise was enacted in connection with the implementation of the emergency response plan 'Probable/confirmed cases of Ebola on a national level', which was approved by the government on 22 October 2014.
An emergency simulation was organised based on the scenario "a probable/confirmed case of Ebola has just arrived at Luxembourg airport", accompanied by the application of the following pre-established emergency measures:
- a suspected case of Ebola on board an aircraft destined for Luxembourg;
- management of a probable/confirmed case at Luxembourg airport;
- transportation of a probable/confirmed case to the Luxembourg Hospital Centre (CHL);
- management and diagnosis/treatment of a probable/confirmed case at the CHL.
At around 8:15 pm, the air traffic control tower of Luxembourg airport was informed by the pilot of an aeroplane destined for Luxembourg that one of the passengers on board was presenting symptoms of the Ebola virus (fever, vomiting).
In addition, the passenger confirmed that he/she had stayed during the last three weeks in a country where the Ebola virus is present.
The medical inspector of the Health Inspection Department of the Department of Health was alerted by the control tower via the Luxembourg Emergency Call Centre (CSU 112) and requested, based on the information that was provided, that the 'suspected case of an infectious disease on board an aircraft' procedure be launched.
As soon as the aircraft was grounded and isolated on the tarmac, the medical inspector boarded the aircraft to examine the patient; he then declared it to be a probable case of Ebola.
A specialist team equipped with full and adapted protective clothing took over the probable case of the Ebola virus, then transferred the patient using the Fire and Ambulance Service of the City of Luxembourg to the National Service for Infectious Diseases at the CHL.
The CHL's internal procedures for such an event were followed to manage the situation.
The other passengers on the aircraft were subject to a preliminary medical examination on board.
Passengers seated in direct proximity to the patient were subject to a thorough medical examination.
One of them was required to go through a disinfection procedure at site.
Passengers who displayed no symptoms were able to leave the aircraft to be taken to an isolated location within the airport by the Health Inspection Department who gave them specific advice (to take their temperature regularly) for the three weeks to come, which corresponds to the incubation period of the disease.
The healthcare professionals reminded the people affected that the risk of Ebola transmission in an aeroplane or airport is very low.
In accordance with the Ebola emergency response plan, the Crisis Cell (CC) had been activated and convened by the High Commissioner for National Protection.
The members of the CC attended as observers of the exercise.
The exercise took place without affecting flights arriving at and departing from Luxembourg airport or the normal functioning of the CHL.
The exercise enabled the participants to practice the different procedures laid out in the Ebola emergency response plan and to control the flow of information, from the crew of the airport to those in charge at the CHL, as well as lux-airport, '112', the Health Inspection Department, the High Commissioner for National Protection and the members of the Crisis Cell.
Exercises like this are of crucial importance as part of training for managing a real case.
In total, around twenty people actively participated in the different operations at the airport and during transport to the CHL.
There were also staff involved within the CHL itself.
A debriefing on the topic of this exercise took place during the afternoon of 28 November 2014.