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South Africa Health Ministry on high alert for Ebola
July 31, 2014, 4:56 am

MSF medical volunteers deployed in Guinea earlier this year to help the government battle the ebola outbreak [MSF/AP]

MSF medical volunteers deployed in Guinea earlier this year to help the government battle the ebola outbreak [MSF/AP]

South Africa’s Ministry of Health has announced that it has placed its staff and facilities on high alert after the World Health Organization and other medical experts expressed alarm at how quickly the Ebola virus has spread in West Africa.

The ministry said that citizens should take precautions but there was no need for panic.

“Our surveillance activities are extremely effective,” Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said in a statement delivered to local media.

The current outbreak was first reported in Guinea in early 2014, but quickly spread to neighbouring countries Liberia and Sierra Leone.

At least 1,100 people have contracted the disease; 670 of these have died.

South Africa has joined a number of other West African nations who have installed thermal scanners that detect travelers with raised temperatures at all ports of travel.

Airports in the continent have been on high alert after Nigeria reported its first Ebola-related death – a Liberian man who had traveled to Lagos via Ghana and Togo on a commercial airliner last week.

The fact that he easily boarded three international flights has raised alarms, and Nigerian officials now say they are screening passengers arriving from foreign countries for symptoms of Ebola.

Last month, the international medical charity group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) warned that the outbreak is likely to worsen.

“The epidemic is out of control,” warned Dr Bart Janssens, MSF’s director of operations, in early July. “With the appearance of new sites in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, there is a real risk of it spreading to other areas.”

Meanwhile, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ordered her country’s schools shut and called for the closure of markets in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

“My fellow Liberians, Ebola is real, Ebola is contagious and Ebola kills,” she warned in a televised address. “Denying that the disease exists is not doing your part, so keep yourselves and your loved ones safe,” she said of the virus which has killed 130 in her country.

Doctors and healthcare workers in Liberia and Sierra Leone have been among those killed by the virus, sparking fears that it may have spread even farther than believed.

Source: Agencies

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