Bold yellow tape inscribed with “Do not enter” cordoned off a ward of Section 8 at Netcare’s Olivedale Clinic.
The mini-quarantine, which set off alarm bells among patients in the section, was part of precautions taken by the hospital when a man was brought in with an extremely high fever.
The man, only known by the surname Dlamini, died at about 4am on Thursday, with hospital staff worried that he may have been suffering from a contagious viral haemorrhagic fever.
Several patients, anxious at seeing men allegedly wearing hazardous-material suits remove the body, contacted The Star on Thursday to report the possibility of a viral outbreak.
However, after comprehensive tests the man was diagnosed as having had a meningococcal bacterial infection in his blood, which hospital officials said explained the extreme fever and his sudden death.
While the infection is somewhat contagious, it is more treatable than haemorrhagic fever and can be combated prior to infection with prophylactic drugs.
Netcare spokeswoman Martina Nicholson said: “The cause of death was an infection of the blood due to the meningococcus bacteria. This is well documented in South Africa as a cause of blood infection.”
She said a quarantine was necessary to ensure the absolute safety of other patients.
“But these are standard precautionary procedures,” she said.
Staff at the hospital confirmed that the man had died and that his family had been present. Nicholson said the man’s family and all those who had treated him were receiving preventive treatment to prevent possible infection.
The incident came after the death of brothers Ioannis and Giorgio Avgousti caused a viral scare at the same hospital in 2010. The two died from a rare syndrome associated with glandular fever.
At the time, it was also suspected that they had been suffering from haemorrhagic fever, but all tests came back negative. - The Star