No need for ebola panic in SA: minister

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iol news pic Sierra Leone West Africa Ebola AP A boy, center, selling soft drinks walk past a clinic taking care of Ebola patients in the Kenema District on the outskirts of Kenema, Sierra Leone. (AP Photo/ Youssouf Bah)

Cape Town - There is no need for South Africans to panic following the outbreak of the ebola virus in West Africa, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Wednesday.

In a statement, Motsoaledi said South Africa remained on high alert and precautions were being taken to prevent the virus from entering the country.

“Our surveillance activities are extremely effective,” said Motsoaledi.

Since the outbreak of the ebola virus disease (EVD) - the largest in history - the health department in conjunction with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) issued an alert to officials at the country's ports of entry.

This included the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

“The CAA held a meeting where all the stakeholders in the aviation industry were briefed on the EVD situation in West Africa,” said Motsoaledi.

“The risks and the steps to mitigate the risks of importing an infected person into South Africa were discussed.”

Organisations transporting ill patients to South Africa were also represented at the meeting.

Health care workers in the country have been ordered to keep an eye out for travellers who have visited West Africa.

“The department has been monitoring the EVD outbreak in West Africa through updates provided by the NICD, Promed, World Health Organisation, and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention,” said Motsoaledi.

“Updates are provided to stakeholders for further circulation as they became available. This is important to keep stakeholders informed and to ensure that response capacity is maintained.”

The country's major airports were also ready to deal with any possible cases of ebola.

“The OR Tambo International Airport and Lanseria Airport have thermal scanners that detect travellers with raised temperatures,” said Motsoaledi.

“These travellers, when identified, are assessed at the medical facilities at these airports.”

The virus has killed more than 670 people, with one regional airline already having suspended flights to the cities hardest-hit by the outbreak.


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