HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsEbola outbreak: Govt sleeping on duty

Ebola outbreak: Govt sleeping on duty

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Whenever a “new” disease comes up, which happens quite often in an integrated world, people get into panic mode.

NewsDay Editorial

The first thing that follows such a disease is stigma, most of it based on pure ignorance.

This is what happened more than 30 years ago when Aids was first reported in Zimbabwe.

It is happening now even before it has been established that Ebola has landed on our coast.

Rumours have spread on social media about a case of Ebola apparently diagnosed at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare.

The government has issued a statement to the effect that there is no confirmed case of the disease in Zimbabwe yet. But this has not stopped the nation from going into a frenzy.

It’s like everyone feels they will be the next victim.

We wrote in this newspaper as soon as the outbreak in West Africa became world news that the first response from our government should be to educate the populace about the disease.
On our part we published two informative pieces on what everyone needs to know about Ebola.

But the government did not play its part.

Very few people have basic knowledge of the disease.

All they know is perhaps that it kills painfully and very quickly too.

This is the reason why everyone is running scared.
We have not seen or heard of any government outreach programme rolled out into communities and schools to allay people’s fears about this “killer” disease.

Those who have had the privilege to understand Ebola know that it is a very difficult disease to contract at the worst of times.
It doesn’t spread like the flu.

It is only transmitted when there has been an exchange of bodily fluids such as blood, saliva and semen.

This means it can only be spread if there has either been some handling of the blood of an infected person or through kissing or through sexual intercourse.

So even when a case is confirmed in Zimbabwe, it is hardly likely the disease will spread like wild fire, unless of course it is spurred through ignorance and people indulge in unsafe behaviour.

In West Africa almost everyone who has contracted Ebola got it through taking care of someone else who has the disease.

This is a very important fact, because it is the reason why anyone suspected of having the virus or having come from an affected country should be isolated.

The spread of Ebola can easily be stemmed if people shun traditional practices of looking after the ill and burying their dead. Direct contact with an ill person should be avoided and the dead should be buried by experts.

The symptoms show up two to 21 days after infection and usually include high fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, weakness, stomach pain, and lack of appetite.

When these symptoms show up, people close to the victims, and, more importantly, the victims themselves should know what to do and what not to do.

Often simple hygiene practices will help before experts are called in.

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