By Jeff Kapembwa
Lusaka - Zambia has joined other Southern African countries in strengthening their fight against ebola and measles which broke out in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola this year, prompting many countries to heighten surveillance to avoid the spread of the diseases.
The World Health Organisation last month declared the Ebola outbreak in the DRC an emergency of international concern which by 27 July had a total 2,659 cases reported, with 1,782 deaths having been recorded, representing a fatality of 67 percent.
Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya told The Southern Times last week that measures had been put in place with all health personnel on high alert for potential symptoms of the disease to ensure that the disease does not spread to Zambia.
Measures include sensitisation of the public on symptoms and raising levels of alertness, especially in border areas it shares with DR Congo. The WHO declaration entails that Zambia’s health personnel will be deployed at all entry points and ensure screenings to ensure any detectable Ebola symptoms are checked, in collaboration with the Ministry of the Interior.
“Zambia has been alerted to ensure that preparedness is escalated and government is doing its best to ensure that its people and the country is receiving enough support and funding from its cooperating partners so that we don’t record any cases,” said Chilufya.
According to Medical Xpress, which is doing an on the ground analysis of Ebola cases, more than 1,500 people had died in a nearly 10-month-old outbreak of Ebola in the DRC as at 24 June this year.
At continental level, during the past 12 months, technical assistance in priority countries has led to significant progress in Ebola preparedness. The Preparedness Dashboard demonstrates an increase in overall preparedness at the country level from 19% (at baseline) to 62% (31 December 2015) among the priority countries.
Furthermore, 11 of the 14 countries have achieved a score of 50% against the Ebola Preparedness Checklist, which signals they are equipped to test their response systems, the WHO said on its website.
Ebola symptoms include weakness, sore throat, headache, among others, and if a patient is left for long, they die.
The deadliest viral diseases was when two consecutive outbreaks of fatal hemorrhagic fever occurred in different parts of Central Africa. Initially, public health officials assumed these outbreaks were a single event associated with an infected person who traveled between two locations.
However, scientists later discovered that the two outbreaks were caused by two genetically distinct viruses: Zaire ebolavirus and Sudan ebolavirus. After this discovery, scientists concluded that the virus came from two different sources and spread independently to people in each of the affected areas.