South Africa is on high Ebola alert but no need to panic

According to a media release posted on Twitter and Facebook today, the Department of Health (DoH) assures South Africans that it is not necessary to panic at all, as all precautions are being taken to prevent the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) from entering South Africa (SA).

The DoH is monitoring the West African situation and has steps in place to detect any Ebola infected people who enter SA. In addition, the Ministry of Health’s spokesperson, Joe Maila said in a media realease earlier today: ‘All health care workers – both public and private – were informed to be on high alert for travellers who have visited West Africa.’

The DoH’s response plan is:

  • To inform public and private stakeholders of the West African EVD outbreak.
  • Request that surveillance activities be increased.
  • Sensitise all outbreak response teams of the risks of imported cases entering SA. In addition to, ‘alerting outbreak teams to be prepared to respond in the event a suspected case was identified in SA.’

SA’s health minister Aaron Motsoaledi says: 'Our surveillance activities are extremely effective'.

Hospitals, ports and airports have been briefed of the West African Ebola situation and the precautions to be taken in SA. The media release indicated: 'Port officials… should have a high index of suspicion for travellers with EVD signs and symptoms.'

At airports, thermal scanners are being used to spot travellers with raised temperatures at OR Tambo International Airport and Lanseria airport. Medical facilities at these airports are ready for travellers who have been detected by the scanners.

Finally, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) held a meeting where all aviation stakeholders – public and private- were informed about EVD  in West Africa.

Furthermore, a discussion was held on the risks and steps ‘to mitigate the risk of bringing an infected person into SA’. ‘Organisations that transport sick patients into SA for treatment were also represented.’  

The CAA have been alerted since 9 April 2014. Additionally, the DoH has been releasing information to all stakeholders including port health officials as it becomes available. Patients with a travel history to West Africa need to be closely monitored.

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