Ebola: Concern over Zim's preparedness

HARARE - Health officials are discussing ways to improve precautions against the spread of infectious diseases in the wake of the Ebola virus outbreak, government officials say.

This comes as Zimbabwe’s state of preparedness on the Ebola outbreak has been branded as worrisome by aid agencies.

Health experts warn that a lot needs to be done in terms of information dissemination and infrastructure development at hospitals to quarantine patients in case of an outbreak amid
economic hardships and poorly-stocked State hospitals.

Rutendo Bonde, chairperson of Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) last week said: “The state of preparedness of Zimbabwean hospitals in case of an outbreak of
Ebola is worrisome. The majority of our public health facilities are underfunded. The health sector has not been fully funded and 70 percent of that amount has gone to salaries.”

News reports said since the worst outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in March, which has killed more than 1 000 people in countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea —
triggering an international public health emergency — government has not been pro-active in terms of awareness campaigns on relatively simple issues such as the symptoms of the disease, how the virus is spread and how people can protect themselves.

Responding to criticism that authorities took too long to disseminate information on Ebola, Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa last week said the country and region is getting prepared.

“We met in South Africa last week to chart the way forward,” he said. “We agreed that the Sadc region must fight Ebola and we realised that since the region are still free from it, the biggest preparation is monitoring our ports of entry.”

He said most of the people coming from West Africa enter the country through international airports and health officials have been deployed at the Harare International Airport, Joshua Nqabuko Nkomo Airport in Bulawayo and the Victoria Falls International Airport.

“They are monitoring and screening those coming from West Africa, particularly those from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone,” Parirenyatwa said.

He said health officials have also been deployed at the Beitbridge and Chirundu border posts.

“Our infectious hospitals are well-equipped and a special ward has been created at Wilkins Hospital,” he said. “Even those screening at the airports are wearing protective clothing.”

Itai Rusike, executive director at Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) said information on the Ebola virus should trickle down to the villages.

“It is good that the minister has shown leadership in placing health officials at ports of entry,” Rusike said.

“However, the government should engage local NGOs and churches to disseminate information on the deadly disease.”

Rusike questioned Zimbabwe’s preparedness.

“It is frightening to note that are we really prepared to control Ebola given that it has a 90 percent fatality rate,” Rusike asked. “We struggled to control cholera around 2008 were about 4 000 people died.

“The current focus is only on entry points into the country which is okay, but we need awareness of the disease in every part of the country.”

The World Health Organisation states key facts on the Ebola virus as:

  •  Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
  • EVD outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90 percent.
  • EVD outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests.
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
  • Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are considered to be the natural host of the Ebola virus.
  • Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. No licensed specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals.

According to WHO, signs and symptoms of Ebola are a severe acute viral illness often characterised 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. People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus.

Ebola, just like HIV and many other diseases, can be transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person.

Men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to seven weeks after recovery.
The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms is two to 21 days.

Comments (4)

The problem is that the political papers like the daily news etc, do not have focus, and they pray if ebola comes to zimbabwe, probably as a political weapon against the ruling party, but anyway, what do you expect from lunatics, we are free from ebola period.

reason - 26 August 2014

Being worried about a real health problem bedeviling Africa today is focus. Being ignorant is lack of focus. I wonder how foolish you are to say we must just ignore because its not yet here? We lost relatives to a simple bacterial disease like Cholera just recently and you say showing no concern is the best preparation we must do? If one person happens to have it and ends up in Harare, will we be safe? will he survive? are the hospitals ready to deal with it? yes there are monitires at airport, but what happens after the person gets through undetected because he/she is in early stages of incubation? 7 days later he geats really sick...can we handle that? Upote uchikwana ukawana nguva. unoda kuwanza chiZANU pachisingakwani!

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