4 April 2014

South Africa: SA Remains On Alert As Ebola Spreads

As concern grows over the spread of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea in West Africa, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi says the country will remain on alert to prevent the virus from entering South Africa.

Minister Motsoaledi said while the country had not yet taken any extra steps due to the stringency of South African borders, officials were being vigilant.

"We are always vigilant at our ports of entry whenever there's an outbreak somewhere, to make sure that we implement the international health regulations. We are just vigilant," Minister Motsoaledi said.

Senegal has since closed its normally busy border with Guinea.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said the risk of introduction of the Ebola virus into South Africa from the outbreak in Guinea is considered low. The institute also noted that the outbreak is confined at the moment to remote rural parts of Guinea and few people would travel to this area for work or tourism.

"Ebola disease cannot be spread through casual contact but is rather transmitted from person to person through direct contact with blood or infected tissues from an infected person. Health workers and family members of infected persons in the outbreak area would therefore be at risk," NICD explained.

The Ebola virus causes Ebola virus disease (EVD) in humans, with a case fatality rate of up to 90%. The virus is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.

Ebola then spreads in the community through human-to-human transmission, with infection resulting from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids.

Signs and symptoms

EVD is a severe acute viral illness often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat.

This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.

- SAnews.gov.za

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