Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has dismissed claims that the Ebola Virus Disease has arrived in South Africa.
This after the Democratic Alliance’s Jack Bloem caused a public panic with claims that a lady, from Guinea, who went into labour at the Rahima Moosa Hospital, west of Johannesburg, had contracted the disease.
The Minister said the lady tested negative for the disease and there is still no sign of the disease in the country.
“She did not even have symptoms… ” he said.
“We did the PCR on the lady and she is negative – that’s the normal test that the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) does for Ebola. We still took precautions… we did the serology, although it was not necessary, and it was also negative,” said Minister Motsoaledi on Thursday.
He called the urgent media briefing following allegations that a female patient admitted at a hospital was infected with the disease.
The test, called DoD EZ1 Real-time RT-PCR Assay, is designed for use on individuals who have symptoms of Ebola infection, who are at risk for exposure or who may have been exposed.
The minister said it was surprising that a citizen would itch to have the disease in their country, and that Bloem must be patient if he wants the disease in the country as it has not arrived yet.
“I wouldn’t understand why a human being is itching for his country to have Ebola,” said Minister Motsoaleli.
He said the lady’s blood was taken on Thursday morning and only arrived at the NICD in the afternoon.
“We can’t hide this Ebola from the public. It is not in the interest of the Department of Health to hide Ebola from the public [if there is any],” said Minister Motsoaleli.
He said it was mischievous of people to run around with the hope of being the first to break the news about Ebola.
He added that no one should panic because there was no reason to.
On Wednesday, the South African Medical Association (SAMA) Trade Union urged people using social media to stop spread rumours about the confirmation of Ebola cases in South Africa, as this causes unnecessary panic.
“Rumours such as these are causing panic and confusion in our nation. We call upon the nation and especially health professionals not to make light of a disease that has claimed over 1 000 victims already.
“It is only the national Health Department or designated officials, who will make such an announcement if ever there is such a need,” said SAMA President, Dr Phophi Ramathuba.
A total of 1 848 cases and 1 013 deaths have been confirmed since the outbreak was reported in West Africa in March.
On 8 August, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Ebola in West Africa an international public health emergency that requires international support to affected countries.
Strengthening capacity for diagnostic labs
Meanwhile, WHO recommended that countries, which are not affected, but with a potential for transmission, must strengthen the level of epidemic preparedness and response.
It also recommended the strengthening of capacity for diagnostic laboratories for EVD, and the training of community health workers on case management and infection prevention and control, amongst others.
In South Africa, the Department of Health has written a ministerial letter to convene an inter-ministerial committee on EVD.
The preparedness activities are coordinated at two levels: national level by the Multi-sectoral National Outbreak Response Team and provincial level by the Provincial Outbreak Response Team.
Outbreak response teams trained
All provinces in 44 districts have trained outbreak response teams and regular meetings are convened at national level to monitor the EVD outbreak and preparedness measures.
“The department monitored the risk and assessed the situation as the outbreak unfolded. Risk of infection for travellers is low, since [EVD is] not transmitted through casual contact. However, preparedness and response measures are needed due to the spread of EVD cases to capital cities… ” Minister Motsoaledi said.
Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal have been identified as the provinces at the highest risk for importation of cases. Priority ports of entry are OR Tambo, Lanseria, Cape Town and King Shaka Airports.
The surveillance for viral haemorrhagic fevers, in particular EVD, has been strengthened at ports of entry and thermal scanners have been installed at the OR Tambo and Lanseria Airports.
The National Health Laboratory Service and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases has also intensified laboratory surveillance and the port health services, including public and private health care practitioners, are on alert for any ill persons that have travelled to very high risk areas.
Each province has designated health facilities to manage EVD cases in 11 designated hospitals. Personal protective equipment (PPE) has also been placed at designated hospitals.
The 11 hospitals are Polokwane in Limpopo Rob Ferreira in Mpumalanga, Charlotte Maxeke and Steve Biko in Guateng Addington in KZN Klerksdorp in North West Pelonomi in Free State, Kimberley in Northern Cape Frere in East London Livingstone in Port Elizabeth Eastern Cape and Tygerberg in Western Cape.
PPE kits include one overall, a pair of over shoes, a pair of N95 masks, two pairs of gloves, one white plastic apron and one set of goggles.
Approximately 100 registered nurses at the South African Military Health Service have been trained in (biosafety level) BSL-4 isolation techniques. Aeromedical evacuation teams have also been trained in BSL-4 isolation techniques, and they are able to collect and transport Ebola patients by air using transport isolator and intensive care equipment.
Meanwhile, WHO has authorised the use of experimental drugs to fight Ebola. A 12-member ethics panel convened by the United Nations health agency has reached “unanimous consensus” that it is ethical to treat Ebola patients with experimental drugs to counter the largest, most severe and most complex outbreak of the virus in history.
Ebola disease cannot be spread through casual contact but is rather transmitted from person to person through direct contact with blood or infected tissues from an infected person. Health workers and family members of infected persons in the outbreak area would therefore be at risk.
The Ebola virus causes Ebola virus disease (EVD) in humans, with a case fatality rate of up to 90%. The virus is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.
Ebola can then spread in the community through human-to-human transmission, with infection resulting from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids.
Signs and symptoms
EVD is a severe acute viral illness often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat.
This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.
Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.
Source : SAnews.gov.za