Patrick Chitumba and Thupeyo Muleya
Government has urged Zimbabweans seeking prayers and healing sessions from Nigerian prophets to reconsider visiting that country as it moves to curb a possible Ebola outbreak.
In an interview at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo yesterday, Health and Child Care Minister, Dr David Parirenyatwa, said Zimbabweans visiting Nigeria for prayer sessions were putting their lives at great risk since several cases of Ebola had been recorded in that country.
Zimbabweans flock to the West African country mainly to attend services by Prophet TB Joshua of the Synagogue Church of all Nations.
Ebola, the deadliest virus known to man, has killed at least 1 145 people in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia since it broke out in March.
Dr Parirenyatwa assured the nation that no Ebola cases had been detected in Zimbabwe or the Sadc region.
“We are discouraging our people from going to Ebola hit countries. Last week we received a group of 50 Zimbabweans from Nigeria.
“They were coming from a prayer session with one of the prophets there,” he said.
“As we are saying, please postpone those prayer trips to Nigeria. For now pray from here. You can do it from here. Fifty people is a large number that can put the country at risk.”
Dr Parirenyatwa said the country would monitor people suspected to have Ebola, especially those from the affected countries, for 21days.
Meanwhile, a team of health experts led by the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Gerald Gwinji, visited Beitbridge border post yesterday to assess the country’s state of preparedness and capacity to deal with an outbreak of the deadly Ebola disease.
The visit follows reports of suspected cases in neighbouring South Africa. The team comprises of technocrats from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Ministry of Health and Child Care.
In an interview after the tour, Dr Gwinji said the team was happy with the situation at the border post where a temporary Ebola port had been set up for surveillance purposes. He added that an isolation site had also been set up at the International Organisation for Migration reception centre. The IOM centre will be equipped with four beds and other key accessories including protective clothing for health workers.
“As you are aware we have started rolling out prevention programmes at our ports of entry and hence the need to assess the situation on the ground and make recommendations where necessary.
“So far we are impressed with the high level of alertness and preparedness by the Beitbridge task team which is led by the District Administrator Mr Peter Moyo,” he said.
Dr Gwinji said they had also started training stakeholders involved in the movement of people through the border and those at the Ebola ports on the best ways to deal with any eventualities.
He said Beitbridge border post handles the highest volume of traffic in the country and hence the need for government to carry out all the necessary preventive and disease control measures.
Approximately 170 000 travellers pass through Beitbridge border post every month. Dr Gwinji said government had sufficient equipment and personnel to deal with Ebola, adding: “The Ministry of Finance is in the process of procuring more equipment.”
“The ports of entry are very important for effective surveillance measures because they provide all the information we need to manage the situation”.
Speaking during the same tour, Beitbridge Civil Protection Unit Chairperson, Peter Moyo, said they had started giving out information to both travellers and members of the community on Ebola.
About 90 percent of people who contract Ebola are killed by the disease. The virus causes internal and external bleeding and damages the immune system and organs. The virus may be contracted through contact with blood or bodily fluids of the infected.
Doctors said the symptoms of the virus show two to three weeks after contracting the virus and they include high fever, sore throat, muscle pains, headache, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea which may lead to decreased functioning of liver and kidneys and eventual death.