SA helps fight Ebola: Motsoaledi

By Drum Digital
11 October 2014

A ministerial advisory committee on Ebola has been appointed and South Africa will be supplying humanitarian aid to West Africa, says Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

A ministerial advisory committee on Ebola has been appointed and South Africa will be supplying humanitarian aid to West Africa, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Friday.

"A ministerial advisory committee on Ebola has been appointed comprising private healthcare professionals," he said at a briefing in Johannesburg.

"Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is working with some donors to organise a mobile crematorium to be built in West Africa."

In South Africa, nine provincial outbreak response teams and 51 health districts, with an average of 25 health officials in each district, had been trained.

Motsoaledi said that, through various meetings, 18 companies had already pledged services, goods and cash to West Africa to the value of R12 million.

Cabinet had approved a budget of R32.5m to support Ebola preparedness and response activities.

He said the mobile crematorium was needed to minimise contact with affected bodies.

"The minute people see you fall, they run and leave the body there. With a mobile mortuary there will still be contact, we need a crematorium," he said.

"We don't think there will be resistance. A lot of human behaviour will have to change,... but we don't expect people to resist because they need help."

Motsoaledi was briefing the media after the companies involved met representatives from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Ambulances, scooters and 16,000 suits of protective gear would be taken to the West African countries.

There was currently no known cure for Ebola, Motsoaledi said.

He said treatment included giving people blood where they had lost blood, ensuring that they ate, and treating other symptoms like fever.

"It's supportive treatment, but to treat the virus itself -- we don't have any treatment as yet."

A National Health Operations Centre had been activated in South Africa to consider requests to travel to and from high-risk countries.

He said surveillance for viral haemorrhagic fevers, in particular Ebola, had been strengthened at ports of entry.

OR Tambo International and Lanseria airports in Johannesburg had thermal scanners.

"We have strengthened our airports."

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) was designated as a centre of excellency for laboratory testing of Ebola samples, training and expertise in the SA Development Community region, he said.

South Africa had 11 designated hospitals for the treatment of Ebola, despite no cases having been reported.

"It's not that we are just starting now. We are just ramping up efforts to fight the virus that started in December. We still have no Ebola in South Africa."

He said private healthcare practitioners had also been put on alert.

They had a 24-hour number to contact the NICD if they encountered a patient who possibly had Ebola.

Motsoaledi said the reason tests were being done on people at ports of entry to South Africa was to "settle the nerves", as the media had caused a frenzy.

"We are testing to settle your nerves...

"It is not acceptable, ladies and gentlemen, to have a media frenzy whenever we have someone with a fever and who bleeds. Bleeding is part and parcel of what the medical personnel see every day."

Motsoaledi said he realised that "unnecessary panic" could be caused if people did not have the right information.

South Africa would not pull out of the African countries until the virus was contained, he said.

"Ebola has already been declared a public health emergency. If we stop and say we have done enough, the virus will spread," he said.

"It is better to go there and contain it in that corner of the world."

According to the latest toll from the World Health Organisation, the virus has killed 3439 people in West Africa since the start of the year.

-SAPA

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