ZIMBABWE is Ebola-free but remains on high alert for any potential outbreak of the epidemic sweeping across West African countries, Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa said yesterday.
Dr Parirenyatwa spoke as the Bulawayo City Council moved to allay any fears of an outbreak after its Health Services Department revealed that it was monitoring 30 people who recently travelled to West Africa to ensure they were free of the disease.
"There's no Ebola in the country. At least not yet, and I pray we never have it. We've, however, introduced a screening process at the country's borders and all ports of entry to make sure that we do not record a single Ebola case in the country. We identify people from countries affected by Ebola such as Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia and we record them and make follow ups so that we're sure they don't have the disease," said Dr Parirenyatwa.
The travellers, Dr Parirenyatwa added, are instructed to visit their nearest clinic every day for 21 days and go through some check-ups. He said symptoms of Ebola are almost similar to those of malaria and meningitis.
Bulawayo's Health Services Director Zanele Hwalima yesterday said all the 30 people they had been monitoring in recent weeks, as revealed by Chronicle yesterday, had tested negative for the disease after being screened for three weeks.
"All the people were cleared of Ebola. They were not suspects; you must not call them suspects. They were travellers who had gone to countries that have been affected," said Hwalima.
The incubation period for Ebola is 21 days and it was therefore necessary to check on everyone who has entered the country from any country that has been affected by Ebola. The 30 visited countries including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria which are all affected by the disease.
The assessment involves monitoring individuals over three weeks. Symptoms of the highly contagious virus include high fever, severe headache, vomiting and diarrhoea
"If no symptoms are detected, then they are cleared," added Dr Parirenyatwa.
The latest Ebola outbreak, first detected in March in Guinea, has killed more than 3,300 people, with the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention projecting that there could be up to 1,4 million cases of Ebola by January if the epidemic does not slow down.