Ebola: SA ‘also very much at risk’

2014-08-06 00:00

DESPITE South Africa’s measures to prevent Ebola, it is probably only a matter of time before the first case passes through a port of entry.

Because of its long incubation ­period, Ebola’s spread remains a high risk even if everyone does exactly what they should to prevent the spread of the virus, said DA shadow minister for Health Heinrich ­Volmink.

He was speaking after an inspection at Lanseria Airport.

Nigeria, which became the first country outside Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia to record a positive case, yesterday confirmed its second case in the doctor who treated the first ­infected patient.

Another eight medical staff members who dealt with the Ebola patients are under quarantine.

The UN said more than 887 people have died of the current Ebola epidemic.

Volmink said health authorities in South Africa should prepare for the worst case scenario rather than ­assume South Africa will miss the risk.

There are currently at least six, but possibly eight, cases of patients in South Africa who showed symptoms that are similar to Ebola, but who tested negative for the highly infectious virus.

The best chance for the virus to slip into South Africa is past passport control at airports, when hundreds of passengers have landed.

Volmink and other DA representatives yesterday inspected the readiness of airports to intercept and quarantine suspected Ebola cases at the main international airports in SA.

Volmink’s inspection at OR Tambo was, however, cancelled at the last minute.

The Ministry of Health did not want to allow any media visits at this airport to show the public how the temperature scanners work and where the airport clinic is situated.

The Health Department can refuse permission to transport a patient from foreign ports to South Africa to get medical treatment. Even the ambulance services may refuse to transport a suspect patient.

Lanseria Airport at Randburg, which has the most air ambulances transporting patients from Africa to SA, has isolation facilities to spot and quarantine most tropical infections — but not Ebola.

Volmink, who has a medical background, said he prefers that a national task team be appointed to put in place processes for a worst case Ebola scenario.

“The biggest risk is during the 21 days before people show most of the symptoms and may not even know they have Ebola,” Volmink said.

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