A nurse vaccinates a child against Ebola in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo, in this July file picture. The World Health Organisation declared the disease outbreak an international health emergency after more than 1 600 people in eastern Congo were believed to have died as the virus spread into areas too dangerous for health teams to access. Picture: Jerome Delay / AP

Johannesburg - The Department of Health in South Africa has confirmed that reports of a woman purportedly displaying Ebola symptoms were part of a simulation exercise in Lesotho. 

Media reports on Thursday morning said a woman had crossed the Ficksburg border between Free State and Lesotho, into South Africa, displaying signs of the deadly virus. 

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize’s spokesperson, Dr Lwazi Manzi, confirmed to Independent Media that the woman had been partaking in a simulation exercise. 

“(I have) just confirmed with (an) advisor that it is a simulation and that statement is being worked on,” she said. 

The department said it would provide further information in a statement on Thursday.

The reports of the Ebola virus in South Africa emerged from an Eyewitness News report which said health officials had confirmed the first case of Ebola in the country. 

The report said the woman was rushed to hospital where tests confirmed the virus. EWN reported that the woman had purportedly come in contact with someone from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been ravaged by the deadly virus in recent years. 

The error appeared to have been introduced by Lesotho's Health Minister Nkaku Kabi, who confirmed the woman had contracted the virus, only to later correct it as a simulation exercise.

According to News24, the International Health Regulations (IHR) in Lesotho also confirmed there had been an Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) exercise simulation on Wednesday between the border gates of Ficksburg and Maputsoe.

"This was first Small Scale Field Simulation Exercise (SSFX) conducted to test the preparedness and response to the PHEIC," the IHR said.   

"The IHR office therefore wishes to inform the public and all other stakeholders that the minister of health will release a statement to address the outcomes of the simulation exercise ... in Leribe," the IHR said. 

Meanwhile, South Africans had started to fear the worst on Thursday morning on social media.

 #EbolaInLesotho #Ebola

Saturday Star