Are we combat ready for Ebola in Mzansi?

By Drum Digital
15 August 2014

The Department of Health is taking the global outbreak seriously and has put measures in place to detect and contain for viral haemorrhagic fevers, in particular Ebola, should they reach the country.

These measures include thermal scanners that have been installed at OR Tambo International Airport and Lanseria.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has assured South Africans that there are no known Ebola cases in the country and has said that a pregnant Guinea woman who was suspected of being infected has tested negative for the virus. She was later admitted to Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital in Johannesburg because she was in labour, not because she was carrying the virus.

The National Health Laboratory Service and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases have also intensified laboratory surveillance and the port health services, including public and private healthcare practitioners, are on alert for any ill people who have travelled to high-risk areas.

All South Africa’s provinces have trained outbreak response teams and regular meetings are convened at a national level to monitor the Ebola outbreak and preparedness measures.

Eleven hospitals have been designated to manage Ebola cases, should the virus reach any of our provinces, and they have each been supplied with sets of personal protective biosafety equipment that includes special overalls, over-shoe covers, masks, gloves, aprons and goggles.

The hospitals are Polokwane Hospital in Limpopo, Rob Ferreira Hospital in Mpumalanga, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital and The Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Gauteng, Addington Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal, Klerksdorp Hospital in North West, Pelonomi Hospital in the Free State, Kimberley Hospital in the Northern Cape, Frere Hospital and Livingstone Hospitals in the Eastern Cape, and Tygerberg Hospital in the Western Cape.

Approximately 100 nurses from the South African Military Health Service have been trained in special isolation techniques, as have aeromedical evacuation teams who are on standby to fetch and transport Ebola patients using transport isolator and intensive care equipment. This means that anyone who might be infected with the virus will be kept isolated from everyone else while being transported to a designated hospital and while being cared for by our medical professionals.

Meanwhile, the South African Medical Association (Sama) has urged people using social media to stop spreading rumours about Ebola cases in South Africa as it has been causing unnecessary panic and may muddy the waters if a real case does eventually develop in the country.

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