Cape Town - Urgent preventive measures must be put in place across the Southern African Development Community to ensure there is no outbreak of Ebola, SADC health ministers agreed on Wednesday.
South Africa should also become the “centre of excellence in Ebola laboratory diagnosis” for the region, they said in a statement, following an emergency meeting in Johannesburg.
Also attending were officials from the World Health Organisation and the SADC Secretariat.
The SADC meeting comes as WHO health experts meet in Geneva to plan new measures to curb the disease, which has killed more than 900 people in West Africa over the past six months.
The outbreak of the disease is the world's deadliest to date, and is centred on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with cases also reported in Nigeria.
According to reports on Wednesday, a man suspected to have contracted Ebola has died in Saudi Arabia.
In its statement on Wednesday, SADC said its meeting “provided a forum for the region to share technical experiences on the Ebola virus disease (EVD) so that the region remains vigilant, and comes up with common understanding regarding the containment of EVD in case of an outbreak”.
It agreed on a strategy for responding to any outbreak.
To date, there had been no reported cases of Ebola within the community's 15 member states.
Ministers at Wednesday's meeting had agreed that government sectors, as well as community, religious and political leaders, should work together to increase awareness of the Ebola situation in order to ensure optimum preparedness and response.
Further, member states should “identify and commit additional financial resources to support the outbreak preparedness”.
They should organise cross-border consultations “to facilitate exchange of information”, and agree on joint collaborative actions.
States should strengthen surveillance, case finding and detection, reporting and contact tracing, and share information on Ebola with WHO in a timely manner.
They should identify health facilities to be used in the event of an outbreak, and ensure these are equipped with all appropriate equipment based on WHO guidelines.