Opinion piece: Ebola heading to SA?

BY NATALI IVERSON - OCTOBER 13, 2014

The Ebola epidemic has caused panic around the world in the last two weeks. The fact that the disease has travelled from West Africa into Dallas, Texas as well as into Spain as fast as it has, has created the fear of it travelling into South Africa.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Ebola has killed 4 033 people since the beginning of the year. This is out of a total of 8 399 registered cases which have been recorded in seven countries.

How is it that Ebola can travel all the way to America and Europe and not into South Africa which is ‘down the road’ from West Africa?

Is South Africa ready for this disease? There are 11 hospitals throughout the country that are equipped and standing by in case Ebola hits. Honestly, how ready can you be?

There is no known cure for Ebola; however, there have been three companies that have produced experimental drugs. One of these companies, Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., manufactures a drug called ZMapp. Despite having shown positive signs in patients infected by the virus, the sheer demand led to its rapid exhaustion in August with the company stating that it could take months to produce more units.

No cure and no working vaccine. How will the world get rid of this disease?

There have been reports that West African people are leaving their homeland and travelling to South Africa in order to “flee” the epidemic.

According to the Sunday Independent, some West Africans are heading to Johannesburg in order to be with friends and family, placing South Africans at the risk of contracting the disease.

This is due to the fact that most of travellers have or will enter the country illegally through the porous Beitbridge border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe in northern Limpopo. This place has no temperature screening process to verify whether migrants could be carriers of this disease.

The paper also claimed to have spoken to the families of the immigrants, who allege that many West Africans are travelling at up to 5 000 kilometres to reach South Africa.

Only one person infected with the disease, could change the game for South Africa. This would definitely cause panic across provinces, having people too scared to even travel inside South Africa for work.

What about businessmen and women, who have to travel from South Africa into West Africa for work? There are people who run businesses in West Africa, such as mining businesses or other important jobs, which will not stop on account of Ebola.

Would having to travel to and from West Africa not be seen as dangerous? As some might be scared that these people could come back to the country infected with the disease?

In some ways this can be seen as safe, as these travellers would be screened at the airport.

However, according to the WHO, symptoms of the hemorrhagic fever can only be seen between days two and 21 of the infection.

Businessmen and women might only have to travel to West Africa for a meeting and then return to South Africa that same day; this means the screening tests would be pointless.

This is the worst Ebola outbreak throughout history. According to a WHO report, at least 20 000 people will be infected by the 2nd of November 2014, before the disease is contained.

A scary thought indeed, what will become of the world? Will there soon be people walking around with protective Ebola suits in the streets? Will the economy be affected?  There are many unanswered questions when it comes to this situation.

There is no place to hide it seems, as Ebola takes to the entire world. It will continue to spread if something is not done quickly. If the United Nations have not been able to figure out how to stop the epidemic, who will?

 

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