South Africa raises R12 million for Ebola response

South Africa raises R12 million for Ebola responseSADC health ministers agreed that the public needs to better understand Ebola to allow for early detection of possible cases

South African companies have raised R12 million in cash and goods to assist in West Africa’s Ebola response but experts warn that more resources are needed as crucial diagnostics cost R10,000 per day.

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South Africa has donated 16,000 hazmat suits to protect health care workers to the WHO (File photo)
South Africa has donated 16,000 hazmat suits to protect health care workers to the WHO (File photo)

Companies such as Pfizer, Standard Bank and Netcare are among 18 companies that have raised R12 million in cash and donations, including scooters and at least four ambulances, to assist the West African Ebola response.

In August, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) deployed a mobile laboratory team to Sierra Leone to assist in the diagnosis of possible Ebola cases. Headed by NICD Head of Special Pathogens Janusz Paweska, the team recently returned to South Africa.

According to Paweska, the laboratory will need to double their daily diagnostic capacity, which costs about R10,000 a day to maintain. He added that the availability of testing to diagnose the disease is crucial to controlling the epidemic that has killed at least at least 4,033 people, according to the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) reports.

“A number of labs are going to be operational in Sierra Leon because there is a huge demand for diagnostic capacity as we need to distinguish those who are infected,” he told Health-e News. “We are going to need R6 million rand for another six weeks because we spend about R10,000 a day”.

He added that the team handled 12,000 blood samples, all positive for the virus, during its time in Sierra Leone.

Government is also contemplating donating a mobile crematorium to help control the spread of the virus, said Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi at a media briefing Friday.

“This will help us because often people don’t claim their loved ones,” Motsoaledi said. “We have bodies lying all over the streets there is no point of mobile mortuary because the infection will still remain high so this will help us cut down on infections.”

Ministerial Committee on Ebola formed[quote float=”right”]”We are going to need R6 million rand for another six weeks because we spend about R10,000 a day”

On Friday, Motsoaledi also announced the creation of a 12-person Advisory Ministerial Committee on Ebola. Comprised of experts in field such as virology, logistics and emergency medical care, the team will regularly brief the minister on gains made in assisting the affected countries.

Speaking at a media briefing, Motsoaledi said that while Ebola remains high on the agenda, the threat of it entering South Africa remains low as the country has scaled up systems to detect possible cases at points of entry.

“(Of) all our ports of entry, OR Tambo International and Lanseria airports remain our key focuses,” he said. “This doesn’t mean we show little interest to our other airports in the country, but we know that they majority of our international travelers come through (those two points)”.

Motsoaledi added that the government has donated 16,000 protective suits for health workers to the WHO, which is expected to distribute them to affected countries.

Last week, media reported that a North West man had been isolated as a suspected Ebola case. Motsoaledi said that the man never presented with Ebola symptoms, but that health workers were forced to act by media and public pressure.

“This man has never travelled out of the country, and he was isolated to exclude Congo fever and those tests were negative,” he said. “He is being treated for bacterial sepsis, we did all this to please you”. – Health-e News Service.

Edited version of this story first appeared in the 11 October editions of the Saturday Star and Weekend Argus.