City of Harare have assured residents that they have put in place measures to deal with any suspected cases of Ebola in the event that the deadly virus finds its way into the country and city.
The City has set up two Ebola quarantine centres at Wilkins and Beatrice Infectious Diseases Hospitals. Speaking during a media tour of the quarantine centre at Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital on the September 23, Dr Prosper Chonzi, council’s Health Services Director, said that council was in the process of training health professionals to deal with Ebola cases.
“We have trained our own health personnel and we have also been training personnel at other institutions such as local authorities, central hospitals and the uniformed forces. If we do get an outbreak we can call on other institutions for assistance,” said Dr Chonzi. Measures towards preparedness are also currently being rolled out in other metropolitan areas, starting with Chitungwiza.
So far 16 doctors and 200 nurses from council run health institutions have been trained in Ebola management. During the tour, nurses at Wilkins Ebola Quarantine Centre demonstrated a 12 step safety programme they will use to protect health workers and the public from contracting the virus in the event of an outbreak.
According to the Health Services Director, the City has already acquired drugs to treat victims, equipment, protective clothing for use during management of patients, and disinfectants. Dr Chonzi also said that 12 teams comprising of a doctor, a nurse, an environmental health officer and other support staff have been set-up and are now on standby.
“These teams rehearse every day even if we do not have a patient to make sure they stay alert for any suspected Ebola cases,” said Chonzi. “As the City Health Department we are prepared. If we do get a case we are more than ready to deal with it depending on the numbers that we will be looking at. But if we do get a case now with all the equipment and training that has gone into it we as City of Harare are prepared,” said Chonzi.
Since the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in March this year, many residents in Harare have expressed dissatisfaction over the City’s preparedness to deal with the virus which has a fatality rate of between 50% and 90%. However, it seems City Fathers are taking some positive measures to prepare the city in the event of a suspected outbreak.
Dr Chonzi said that council has also put in place measures to dispose of Ebola victims’ bodies. “If patients die they become more infectious than when they were alive because the virus tends to move to the skin, so we need to be more careful when they die…we will take over the burial of the bodies. We already have space for graves at Granville Cemetery.”
“In the event of Ebola patients who die at home, we have already signed agreements with two local funeral parlours that will collect the bodies from the homes for supervised burial. We have already trained them in the handling of Ebola victims’ bodies,” said Dr Chonzi.
Harare is on high alert for the virus which is wreaking havoc in some countries across West Africa including Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Other measures, such as screening for travellers who might have passed through Ebola hit regions at the country’s ports of entry and a 21-day monitoring programme, have been introduced for any persons who may show signs of the virus. Nearly 100 people who travelled to Ebola hit areas were quarantined in Harare during September, though no confirmed cases were discovered.
According to health experts Ebola symptoms start two days to three days after contraction of the virus. These include fever, sore throat, muscle pain and headaches. Vomiting, diarrhoea, rash and internal and external bleeding follow in the advanced stages of the disease.
The virus can be acquired through contact with blood or bodily fluids such as sweat, urine, saliva and other fluids from an infected person.