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Ebola: Awareness key

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THE EBOLA outbreak that has claimed over 1 500 lives in West Africa since March has caused panic throughout the world.

Ebola, which is caused by a virus, is spread between humans through direct contact with infected bodily fluids.

The disease has affected mostly Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, but the outbreak has been given a new dimension after fresh cases were discovered in the Demcoratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

This means the outbreak has drawn closer home much faster than most Zimbabweans would have anticipated.

There were reports yesterday that Botswana had barred entry to anyone travelling from the DRC in response to the outbreak in that country.

Haulage truck companies have been affected most by the travel restrictions. Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa on Wednesday said Zimbabwe was considering travel restrictions to affected countries, but said it was too early to bar visitors from West Africa and DRC.

He said the government had set aside Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital in Harare, Thorngroove Infectious Diseases Hospital in Bulawayo and Hwange Colliery Hospital in Matabeleland North as emergency isolation centres for Ebola cases.

Such constant information from the government is necessary because citizens are now exposed to information coming from all sorts of sources.

The advent of information communication technology has rendered information control an exercise in futility.

Most of the communication now happens outside traditional media channels such as radio, television and newspapers.

The majority of the country’s population now relies on social media for current affairs and the unregulated arena has all kinds of pitfalls especially in times of emergencies. Already there have been cases of misinformation where nonexistent cases of Ebola were cited in Zimbabwe.

Such information not only has a potential to cause alarm and despondency, but would also scare tourists intending to visit the country.

Therefore, it is crucial for Parirenyatwa and his ministry to step up awareness campaigns and manage the dissemination of information about Ebola in a more systematic manner.

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