South Africa pulls up its sleeves in fight against Ebola


    26 November 2014

    South Africa is playing its part in the international fight against Ebola virus disease on a number of fronts – including diagnostic laboratory support in West Africa – in an multifaceted approach to ensure its citizens and visitors remain safe.

    South Africa has been running a diagnostic laboratory in Sierra Leone since August that assists with the diagnosis of Ebola. The laboratory is staffed by South African officials from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, with teams being rotated every five weeks.

    South African health and tourism experts met in Pretoria on Monday to discuss and evaluate the country’s response to the Ebola outbreak.

    Convened by Brand South Africa and the Department of Communications, the representatives at the high-level discussion agreed that South Africa was at a low risk of having an Ebola outbreak.

    Nevertheless, the country continued to be vigilant, and had a robust plan in place, which includes:

    • The monitoring of travellers at all ports of entry (air, land and sea);
    • Temperature screening of all passengers at airports;
    • The use of health questionnaires;
    • The preparedness of designated health facilities in the private and public health sector to manage a suspected or infected individual with Ebola; and
    • Extensive training has been rolled out to frontline health professionals at the ports of entry as well as the designated health facilities.

    The meeting was attended by representatives from the departments of Health, Tourism and Communications, South African Tourism, Wits University, Proudly SA, Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) and the South Africa Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).

    Other ways South Africa is playing its part:

    The SADC: South African Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi hosted a meeting of SADC health ministers in South Africa in August. The meeting aimed agreeing on processes to deal with a potential outbreak of Ebola in the region.

    The meeting also agreed that South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases would be the regional centre of excellence to diagnose Ebola.

    A second Ministerial meeting was held in September 2014 during which SADC health ministers agreed on the co-ordination of travel measures to be implemented and that South Africa would intensify its screening processes at ports of entry.

    Infection control interventions: South Africa is producing sterilising units (autoclaves), which assist in the sterilisation of medical waste, preventing the spread of any Ebola infection.

    These units, which can function in low-resource settings, have been introduced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to the affected countries as part of their response.

    Financial support: South Africa has mobilised its private and public sector to raise approximately R50-million for the international Health and Humanitarian Response in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

    SAinfo reporter