Patrick Chitumba and Sukulwenkosi Dube
Government has started setting up health ports to strictly monitor visitors coming in via air or land routes and quarantine them if necessary in a bid to curb a possible Ebola outbreak in the country. Director of Epidemiology in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Portia Manangazira confirmed the development yesterday.
Ebola, the deadliest virus known to man, has killed at least 1 145 people in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria, since it broke out in March.
Dr Manangazira said no Ebola cases had been detected in Zimbabwe.
“Yes we are setting up health ports at the border posts and I am on my way to Beitbridge where we are going to conduct a special training for health personnel so that they are able to monitor all those coming into the country through Beitbridge Border post tomorrow,” she said.
Dr Manangazira could not reveal more details regarding the training saying, “Call me tomorrow morning for further details since I am on my way to Beitbridge.”
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A booth to monitor people entering the country was opened yesterday at the Plumtree Border Post.
With the health port in place, travellers are required to pass through it for assessment before their passports are stamped. The visitor’s passport is also inspected to see whether the holder had recently been to an Ebola affected country.
Chronicle observed a port health officer interviewing people coming from Ebola zones and also being examined by a health professional for possible symptoms.
The visitors were then referred to the Plumtree District Hospital for tests and specimens were collected and taken to the National Reference Laboratory for inspection.
A senior official at the hospital who preferred anonymity said the strategy was put in place by the Civil Protection Unit from Bulilima District.
An official at the border post said Botswana officials recently stopped a Liberian from entering their country as a contingency measure.
“The Botswana officials have said that they will not be allowing any foreigners coming from affected countries into their country within a space of 30 days,” said the official.
“She was being screened at all the borders she went through but she was not allowed to proceed to Botswana.
“She left Liberia two weeks back and the Botswana immigration officials said they would not allow her in their country until a 30 day period had elapsed.
“Therefore such people have to proceed to an unaffected area and remain there for 30 days before proceeding to Botswana,” said the official.
Regional Immigration Officer in charge of Western Region, Regies Munyaradzi confirmed that a booth had been opened for health surveillance on travellers.
Travellers who spoke to our Bulawayo Bureau welcomed the screening of foreigners but complained that the process was causing delays especially on the Botswana side.
“The Botswana officials are very particular about screening travellers and their process takes long.
“It becomes an inconvenience especially when there is a queue.
“Now there is an additional counter that we have to pass through at the border instead of going straight to have our passports stamped,” said Bridget Masuku who was travelling to Bulawayo from Botswana.
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 symptoms of the virus show two to three weeks after infection and they include high fever, sore throat, muscle pains, headache, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea which may lead to decreased functioning of the liver and kidneys and eventually death.