Government has challenged medical practitioners to join hands in spreading awareness about the deadly Ebola virus to wipe out the “fear-Ebola mentality” that has gripped the nation.
Officially opening the Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZiMA) annual congress in Victoria Falls on Friday, the Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr David Parirenyatwa, said the country was on high alert and implored about 400 doctors attending the congress to help the Government dispel fear about the virus.
“We have a challenge that has caused a fear-Ebola syndrome. Go out there and let people know about Ebola but don’t scare them,” he said.
“Our hope as a country is that it doesn’t come to us because our systems are weak. One case might destroy us. We are working with other Sadc countries to make sure it doesn’t affect the region.”
Dr Parirenyatwa said Government would not quarantine visitors from countries affected by the deadly Ebola virus, but would place them under observation for 21 days.
The Minister said it would be impractical to quarantine visitors.
While assuring Zimbabweans not to be scared as no case had been reported yet, Dr Parirenyatwa said the risk of the virus spreading into the country was real due to people’s mobility.
“We are not quarantining anyone but we will follow up on visitors for 21 days,” said the Health Minister.
He added: “We will follow them up from the time they enter the border as we will be on the lookout for those from affected countries to know where they are going and monitor them for 21 days.”
He said the monitoring would involve checking on their body temperature and day to day behaviour for any signs of the deadly virus.
Symptoms, which manifest between two to 21 days after infection, include fever, muscle pain, headache and a sore throat followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function and in some cases both internal and external bleeding.
In the worst outbreak of the haemorrhagic Ebola fever on record, the disease has killed 1 426 of the 2 615 people who have contracted the virus in West Africa, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
It has also been detected in countries like the DRC, Nigeria and Senegal.
Dr Parirenyatwa said his Ministry had set up Thorngrove Isolation Centre in Bulawayo, Beitbridge Hospital, Plumtree Hospital and Victoria Falls Hospital, which are at the ports of entry, to contain suspected cases of the virus.
The ZiMA congress, which ended on Saturday, ran under the theme “Operational challenges of running health services in Zimbabwe”.
It drew participants from both the public and private sectors.
Some of the challenges facing the country’s health delivery system include lack of funding and lack of proper infrastructure.