Ebola is a so-called filovirus, transmitted through contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person. (AFP)

Minister: No need for Ebola panic in SA

There is no need for South Africans to panic following the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has said.

South Africa remains on high alert and precautions are being taken to prevent the virus from entering the country. "Our surveillance activities are extremely effective," said Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

Following the current outbreak of Ebola – the worst in history – the health department in conjunction with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) issued an alert to officials at the country's ports of entry. This included the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

"The CAA held a meeting where all the stakeholders in the aviation industry were briefed on the Ebola situation in West Africa," said Motsoaledi. "The risks and the steps to mitigate the risks of importing an infected person into South Africa were discussed." 

Organisations transporting ill patients to South Africa were represented at the meeting. Healthcare workers have been ordered to keep an eye out for travellers from West Africa.

"The department has been monitoring the Ebola outbreak in West Africa through updates provided by the NICD, Promed, the World Health Organisation and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention," said Motsoaledi. "Updates are provided to stakeholders for further circulation as they became available. This is important to keep stakeholders informed and to ensure that response capacity is maintained."

The country's major airports were ready to deal with any possible cases of Ebola. "The OR Tambo International Airport and Lanseria Airport have thermal scanners that detect travellers with raised temperatures," said Motsoaledi. "These travellers, when identified, are assessed at the medical facilities at these airports."

The virus has killed more than 670 people, with one regional airline already having suspended flights to the cities hit hardest by the outbreak. – Sapa

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