SAMHS ready if Ebola appears


South African soldiers deployed continentally on peacekeeping and peace support operations need have no fear about Ebola. The SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) has a sophisticated system in place, including a portable isolation capability, to deal with the highly contagious disease.

Additionally, according to SA National Defence Force (SANDF) director: corporate communications, Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, all three the country’s military hospitals, especially I Military in Thaba Tshwane, are geared “to received and isolate any suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola Viral Disease (EVD)”.

He said SAMHS in collaboration with the National Department of Health and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases is continuously monitoring the EVD outbreak in West Africa.
“A contingency plan is in place to manage any outbreak of EVD in South Africa as well as in mission areas where the SANDF is deployed,” he said.

The portable isolation capability – a negative pressure room isolating system – is rated “highly sophisticated” he said.
“A formal training programme for isolating serious risk patients has been running for several years and SAMHS has a large group of trained healthcare professionals to implement high-level isolation.
“A strategic stockpile of protective clothing has been released from the SAMHS Depot and was distributed by SAMHS to all government hospitals identified by the Minister of Health in the country, military hospitals and to mission areas.
“A screening process, in line with the process implemented at International airports in South Africa, has also been implemented at AFB Waterkloof and AFB Bloemspruit for international flights returning from external deployments.
“In collaboration with the private sector, healthcare information on diagnosing EVD has been distributed within the SANDF. Sickbays managing members returning from external deployments have been cautioned to be alert to possible EVD cases,” Mabanga said adding there was “close co-operation” between government, private and military health sectors to manage an EVD outbreak either in South Africa or continental mission areas where the SANDF is deployed.
“The Office of the Surgeon General, Lieutenant General Aubrey Sedibe, has also compiled and issued an internal information bulletin on EVD. This is distributed on all internal SANDF communication platforms,” Mabanga said.

National carrier, SAA, will continue flights to West African destinations, an airline spokesman said earlier this week.

The decision is in line with the position adopted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and IATA (International air Transport Association).

SAA has stepped up measures to protect passengers, air crew and ground staff.

These include checking for passengers who show specific symptoms associated with EVD, isolating them and having tests done by health authorities.

Aircraft are also equipped with protective gear and biohazard waste disposal kits.
“SAA flies to five destinations in West Africa, Abidjan in Ivory Coast; Accra in Ghana; Cotonou, Benin; Dakar, Senegal and Lagos in Nigeria. There is no travel ban to any of these destinations as a result of the outbreak of the virus in that region.
“The airline remains committed to ensuring the enforcement of international health protocols associated with air transport.
“SAA will remain in communication with local health authorities and monitor the situation on a continuous basis. This will enable the airline to constantly do risk assessment and review its decisions should there be developments that warrant such a review.
“SAA would like to urge everyone travelling to the West African region to take the necessary precaution and be vigilant,” SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali said.