Ebola: Clinic in lockdown

HARARE - An Ebola scare yesterday sparked quick reaction by authorities when they quarantined a Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) student and locked down Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital (Wilkins) in Harare in a bid to contain the spread of the deadly disease.

Hilda Bara, the Wilkins medical superintendent, said the institution was closed yesterday morning after the patient with Ebola-like symptoms was admitted.

She said because the illness was thought to be Ebola, Wilkins  had been locked down as a precaution to prevent the spread of the highly contagious disease.

But there was hope yesterday after Harare City Council medical authorities said the patient had also tested positive for malaria and quickly ruled out the possibility that the student had contracted Ebola.

Zimbabwe does not have equipment to test Ebola and the patient’s samples were sent to  South Africa to ascertain if it was the infectious disease.

An assessment is still underway, and it was not immediately clear yesterday if the affected person had been in contact with locals, other patients or staff.

Bara said Zimbabweans  should be reassured by health protocols, citing yesterday’s response as proof the health system is ready to handle such situations.

While Wilkins was locked down, patients seeking medical care were asked to visit one of the other acute care centres in the city, Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospitals, popularly known as Nazareth.

The student from DRC fell ill on Thursday, 21 days after visiting her country.

She was transferred for isolation to Wilkins from Parirenyatwa Hospital.

“We have a suspected case of Ebola that we are examining and monitoring,” Bara told restless patients at Wilkins yesterday. 

“When we have such cases, we cannot allow patients with Ebola symptoms to mix with others. We are sorry we have to close your place. In two or three days, we will have test results. If they are negative, we will tell you and work continues.

“Those who need our services, you can still get them at Nazareth, our other hospital which is open. Those who are here for cervical cancer screening, go to nearby clinics for help.”

At Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospitals, patients queued for Ebola screening by employees who were donning full protective gear.

Although there have been several scares in the recent past, this is the first case which has seen a patient being quarantined.

This comes as the virus has been ravaging countries in West Africa. At least 3 439 from over 7 400 cases recorded have been killed since March. The diseases had even been detected in the United States where a patient died two days ago and Spain where a female medical care worker is under treatment.

Although the Sadc region has largely been Ebola-free, two cases were recently confirmed in the DRC.

Prosper Chonzi, the city health director,  said although the patient had Ebola-like symptoms, she also tested positive for malaria.

“The patient was supposed to have started her studies at a local institution,” Chonzi said.

“She is at Wilkins now after Parirenyatwa Hospital referred her after she got there with a high temperature, vomiting and some nose bleeding.  Yesterday was her 21st day in Zimbabwe, but she was in Lubumbashi, which is like 3 000 km from where Ebola is.”

Chonzi said authorities have already sent specimens to South Africa since there is no facility for detecting the disease locally.

“We have already collected the specimen and it should be on its way to South Africa now and they will tell us in four hours when the specimen gets there if it is Ebola, but we have so far ruled it out,” he said.

“It’s most likely to be malaria because she tested positive for it. We are managing it as malaria but we took this opportunity too to test the system because Parirenyatwa Hospital had thought it was Ebola. It is also highly unlikely to be Ebola because the patient is showing signs of recovery.”

Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa said the case was a litmus test for the national Ebola response.

“We are only doing this to see kuti ko kana tikaiita (If we have a) case, how do we deal with it,” he said.

“To us, it’s still a scare. The patient tested malaria-positive, so she has malaria. We are sending the specimens to South Africa to test the effectiveness of our system.

“However, we are still treating the case as suspected Ebola and will perform all the necessary procedures while we are waiting for the results. We don’t have Ebola in Zimbabwe.”

Parirenyatwa said going forward, his ministry would intensify education of health sector employees so they can handle such cases with maturity.

“The issue here is that of public health versus public panic,” he said.

“Let me emphasise that there is still no Ebola in Zimbabwe and we hope there will never be. I think we need to control it by educating not only the public but also our health professionals so that they don’t get scared.”

Parirenyatwa Hospital acting clinical director Noah Madziva said: “Whoever told you about it should give you all the details. We have all our patients here.”

Comments (9)

Ko mato concluder sei ma test results asati avapo ?

Meso meso - 10 October 2014

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GALLERYCARTRIDGES - 10 October 2014

DW: Please describe the moment you first felt sick in Liberia. Nancy Writebol: At first I felt like it was malaria. It was just a high fever, there were no other symptoms. I had a headache to go along with that, but that's very normal for malaria. And so I had the malaria test done, our doctor did the test. And it was positive for malaria. So I went home and took malaria medication - and for four days, I stayed at home and rested, and took the meds. And on that Saturday I still wasn't feeling well. And so our doctor said, "Nancy, I want to run an Ebola test. I don't think it is Ebola - you don't have any other symptoms - but we're going to set everybody's mind at ease." So they ran the Ebola test and that evening, we received the results that I was positive.

tawanda - 10 October 2014

minister,we know that our economy is in bad state but please dont lead pple astray,tinopera kufa muno and it doesnt help. that person has got very high chances that she suffers from Ebola

tendai - 10 October 2014

Doctor do not take chances that person should be deported back to his country urgently after your tests mungatipedzesa munyika medu hamunazvakakwana tinopera kufa tese makagona kuvharisa hospital kwamakaita asi soon before they misled us lets deport that person and stop any visa processing for people from all affected countries please please before its too late

dofo - 11 October 2014

A number of years ago we had a minister saying we can do with out 4 million people so most likely Mugabe is praying for the arrival of ebola it will save him looking for those 2 million jobs he promised.

jack - 11 October 2014

Pliz why are u allowing entrance of people from the affected countries even if they 're coming for business just deny them entry cause we will all die, apa hamugoni kuirapa futi itai zvimwe muchifunga imi, even our soldiers & policemen who're out there in affected countries when they come back home pliz screen them fully before they mix with the public becoz they pose a serious threat to the public.

More Fololo - 11 October 2014

make sure you are doing the proper thing,we dont want to yake any chances with this devilish disease

supernat - 11 October 2014

The solution is very simple. do not allow people from countries that have Ebola to enter the country... If a person does not have a Zim passport then they should not enter.

Sandisiwe - 13 October 2014

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