Confusion over 'Ebola patient'

HARARE - Government is yet to send to South Africa specimens from an Ebola suspect quarantined at Wilkins Hospital as confusion rocks government’s handling of the crisis.

Contrary to announcements on Thursday that the samples had been sent to South Africa for tests, the Daily News was yesterday told that the specimens were still with the National Reference Laboratory by noon yesterday.

The patient, a Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) student is, however, still detained at the infectious diseases hospital and the media was yesterday allowed to see her from a distance to quell rumours that she had died on Thursday night.

Harare city health director, Prosper Chonzi, confirmed the developments.

“We have not sent the specimen but according to the South African Laboratory experts, the picture is not a typical picture of Ebola,” said Chonzi at Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital yesterday.

“They have not confirmed (SA laboratory) that it is not Ebola but the National Reference Lab shared the history of the patient with them. They also asked three key questions which proved that case was highly unlikely to be Ebola.

“In this regard, they suggested that we check for other things. They have said we should run our own tests and we have done that, through our National Reference Laboratory.

“They are still with the sample and may send it any day, just to confirm and clear people’s suspicions, otherwise they will think we have a weak system.”

Health minister David Parirenyatwa could not be reached for comment.

The patient, was referred for quarantine on Wednesday from Parirenyatwa Hospital.

Chonzi said the improvement on the young female student’s health is confirmation that it is not the dreaded Ebola virus that has killed nearly 4 000 people in West Africa since its appearance in March.

“We do not know if she has Ebola but the clinical progression is consistent with malaria. We are happy about it. We do not expect an Ebola patient to recover or respond to treatment the way the suspected patient is responding,” Chonzi said.

“She is very fine and now eating on her own, the tests we ran are not consistent with Ebola but malaria. We did full blood count and the malaria slide in which she tested positive so she is on relevant treatment and she is now eating.”

During the media visit to the isolation centre, the clearly feeble patient lay in bed struggling to grasp questions posed by a staffer at the institution on what fruits and drinks she wanted.

The country has no capacity to run tests for such deadly diseases.

Chonzi said it was not clear whether the samples will still be transported to SA or not.

“Such tests require level four and we are level three. Sadc will decide if the tests would be carried out. The thing is they will think that we are now referring every case for tests which is unnecessary so we should provide all the relevant information before they run the tests,” he said.

It is estimated that the disease will claim more than 20 000 lives across the continent before it is contained.

Chonzi said the hospital may re-open on Monday.

Comments (9)

The delay in sending the sample, whatever sample it is, to RSA for testing is due to lack of money. Don't tell stories Mr Chonzi. Your employer is broke. In RSA there is nothing for free. There is special packaging required to move higly infectious samples saka ndipo pane nyaya. If you had driven to RSA you would have arrived a long time ago.

garikayi - 12 October 2014

The female worker in Liberia who was taken by fleight to USA for tretment was also tested positive for malaria then she get sick. She survived the ebola because she get one of the two doses of medicine (ZMapp) which was produced at that time and she survived. knutte

Roy Knutsson - 12 October 2014

If we cannot handle this situation, why not enlist the DRC government to help or send the student back to her country?

taps - 13 October 2014

Is this chap serious when he says "Sadc will decide if the tests would be carried out."So you wait for Sadc to tell you how to conduct your own health affairs? Shame.

Johno - 13 October 2014

A week ago this same chonzi was saying the city was prepared for ebola, now this, total confusion and lack of leadership. Where do we get some of this comrades for high posts?

baTafi - 13 October 2014

This article is not well written, the information is not structured. The writer should have placed paragraphs and sentences that relate to the patient in one block, so that the situation is clearly conveyed, then we could be told about Zimbabwe's capacity to test for, and contain ebola at the end of the article. Since this is an issue that concerns our survival, the writer should have looked into issues like: (a) when did this girl get sick? (b) was she part of a group that became sick? (c) where was she staying (d) how did she come to be referred to Parirenyatwa hospital? (e) did she travel to the hospital by kombi? If so, why was the kombi with all its passengers allowed to go? Remember, she must have been coughing in the kombi, so the air in that kombi would have been infected. I have always said that this custom of coughing and sneezing without covering one's face is wrong, as you pass the disease to other people. Finally, why didn't the writer try to interview the local DRC representative for their views on the situation? A newspaper should always try to present a well-rounded unbiased article for its readers.

samson - 13 October 2014

tipeiwo maserious waParirenyatwa. Mukatiudza of course people will panic but their will involve taking precautionary measures, pane kuzoti wen the situation is way out of hand mozotanga kuita official declaration, tingafire official secrecy here nhai?

rafero - 13 October 2014

I would have thought that the very first thing to do would have been to send off that sample for testing in SA. This inspires no confidence whatsoever. What are they doing? better safe than sorry.

Nanette - 13 October 2014

Akomana Ibhora ikanzi yauya muZimbabwe-ka, vana Chonzi nana Dr Parirenyantwa nana Dr Gire ndovanotanga kutiza muno ivo vaye, tiri pama1 bhoyz dzangu

Command Center - 14 October 2014

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