Medical staff working with Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) prepare to bring food to patients kept in an isolation area at the MSF Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun, Sierra Leone. Picture: Tommy Trenchard

Durban - There is no need for South Africans to panic about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa “as all precautions are being taken to prevent the virus”, according to the Department of Health.

Ebola has killed more than 670 people in four West African countries since March, and Medicins sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) has described the epidemic as “out of control”.

The epidemic started in Guinea, then spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia. Last Friday, a man who had travelled to Lagos on a flight from Liberia died of Ebola in hospital in the city. The Nigerian government has since shut the hospital and is tracking down passengers on his flight.

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

Health spokesman Joe Maila said the Department of Health’s response involved “informing all stakeholders (both public and private) of the Ebola outbreak and requesting that they increase their surveillance activities” and “sensitising all outbreak response teams to the risks of imported cases entering South Africa”.

“Outbreak response teams were alerted to be prepared to respond in the event a suspected case was identified in the country,” said Maila.

The Environmental Health Directorate, Port Health authorities, Civil Aviations Authority and provinces have all been informed of the signs and symptoms of Ebola.

The Civil Aviation Authority convened a meeting with stakeholders on April 9 this year to alert them of the outbreak and address challenges that might be experienced, according to the department.

“All the stakeholders in the aviation industry were briefed on the Ebola situation in West Africa.

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

OR Tambo International and Lanseria airports in Joburg have thermal scanners that detect travellers with raised temperatures.

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


Ebola is a highly infectious virus that is transmitted in bodily fluids. The fatality rate is about 90 percent.

Health-e News Service