Ebola awareness still lacking

THE government has been doing everything possible within its limited resources to prepare the country for any possible Ebola outbreak.

Ebola has claimed almost 5 000 lives since its outbreak in West Africa in March.

The majority of the deaths have occurred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with eight in Nigeria and one in the United States, but countries throughout the world are on high alert.

Zimbabwe is no exception as it has been working with other Southern African Development Community (Sadc) countries to prepare for any possible outbreak of the deadly disease.

Sadc, just like the rest of the world, is vulnerable to an Ebola outbreak because of the high number of visitors it gets from West Africa.

However, no single case of Ebola has been reported in the region and it largely remains safe. There have been a couple of suspected cases of Ebola that were widely reported by the media in both Zimbabwe and South Africa, which all turned out to be false alarms.

The panic caused by these cases whose tests all turned out negative is, however, illustrative of the ignorance about Ebola that still permeates the health sector.

A few weeks ago, nurses at a hospital in Kadoma reportedly fled an ambulance that had brought a patient who exhibited symptoms synonymous with Ebola.

A similar case occurred at Gwanda Hospital this week where a Zimbabwean engineer based in Nigeria was treated from a car after exhibiting Ebola-like symptoms. The health officials were reportedly scared to admit him into the institution, fearing he had contracted the deadly virus.

It also emerged that the hospital has no facilities to quarantine patients suspected to be infected with the virus.

All this happened despite claims by the government that it was prepared for any outbreak. Preparedness for an outbreak should mean that health workers do not panic when they receive patients exhibiting Ebola symptoms.

The nurses must also know where to take patients instead of turning them back from health institutions.

The Government must step up the Ebola awareness programmes to cover all critical areas such as health institutions and avoid a repeat of the Gwanda incident.

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