Ebola is a deadly disease which was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1976 and has been wrecking havoc in West Africa, particularly in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Nigeria and Senegal. The Ebola virus is believed to be found in wild animals like bats and monkeys and people from West Africa eat such animals, resulting in the subsequent spread of the virus. It is spread through contact with organs and bodily fluids such as saliva, urine and other secretions. Although the virus was discovered in 1976, it has had a profound effect in 2014 killing millions in that region. Several Ebola scare cases were reported in Zimbabwe though the country as according to the Ministry of Health is still yet to treat an Ebola patient. The government working in cohorts with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare devised strategies to contain the virus.
Rumours of the disease have been rife since the epidemic struck West Africa. Several scare messages of the outbreak of the diseases surfaced. The country is still yet to attend to an Ebola patient.
- The first case of Ebola was reported on 26 April at Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo. Business came to a standstill after a suspected case of ebola in the casualty department. Nurses and doctors were forced to evacuate patients from the hospital's casualty area and the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Dr. Jephat Moyo, stated that they was indeed a suspected case of an Ebola virus case after a patient was brought in from Gweru who had symptoms of the disease (vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, fever, stomach pains, etc). The patient however died and it was later reported that he had succumbed to haemorrhage fever and not Ebola.
- On 12 August 2014, a scary message of the outbreak of the disease was circulating on the social medias indicating that there was an Ebola outbreak in Kadoma. It was believed that, two weeks prior to 12 August, two people had arrived in Kadoma from Sierra Leona and Liberia respectively. However, after being closely monitored for about 21 days, these news turned out to be just unfounded rumours.
- On 28 August, there was also the circulation of a Whatsapp message alleging an Ebola outbreak in Bulawayo. The virus was said to have emanated from Mater Dei Hospital whilst some believed that it had emanated from the United Bulawayo Hospital. It was allegedly reported that a doctor from either these two hospitals got into contact with an infected patient who was believed to be either from Zambia and DRC during a treatment session. These rumours were dispelled.
- In September 2014, it was also reported that an Ebola patient was being treated at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals. The patient was rumoured to be a truck driver who had recently returned home from DRC. The man was said to have been rushed to the hospital after showing symptoms of the deadly disease. He was attended to by two doctors with special training in Ebola and the doctors were satisfied that the patient was not infected by Ebola.
- In October 2014, a Harare Polytechnic student whose home country is DRC was believed to be infected with the deadly virus. She had gone to DRC but it was later stated that she was in Lumbumbashi, 3 000 km away from where Ebola was killing people in DRC. The student was transferred from Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals to Wilkins Infectious Disease Hospital in Harare. She tested positive to malaria. These rumours were compounded by the closure of Wilkins Hospital.
- Another case was reported in Murehwa where a truck driver died at Murehwa Hospital on his way from Nyamapanda. The man was believed to have succumbed to Ebola and after his death, messages began to circulate that Murehwa was at risk.
- In Kwekwe, a woman who had gone to T. B. Joshua's church in Nigeria in early July returning on 19 July was also suspected of being infected with the Ebola virus. An ambulance crew from EMRAS is said to have escaped after learning that an emergency they had been summoned to involved a suspected case of Ebola. The woman was however not an Ebola patient.
The Response of the Government
The government has taken some measures not stern ones however to combat and to contain the disease in the country although the country is incapacitated to detect Ebola. The government launched a website to raise awareness as well as to disseminate information regarding the disease in the country. The then Deputy Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr. Paul Chimedza explained that, the website was a way of providing a platform where citizens who suspected any outbreak of Ebola cases had the opportunity to alert the ministry.
The government along with other SADC countries adopted measures set up by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to prevent the spread of the disease. The country also adopted a national approach to ensure prompt detection of any Ebola case starting with the compulsory screening of visitors or returning residents from the Ebola affected nations. Infrared thermal cameras and hand held laser thermometers rather than contact thermometers are being used to detect the fever. In spite of this, it has been reported that the screening is not being done effectively.
The Ministry of Health established a 21 day monitoring programme for visitors and returning residents from Ebola affected nations. Health workers are also mandated to visit those being monitored once a week. The National Rapid Response Team has designated five Ebola care and management centres. These are, Wilkins Infectious Disease Hospital, Thorngrove Infectious Disease Hospital, Gweru Infectious Disease Hospital, Hwange Colliary Hospital and IOM facility in Beitbridge.
- Nkosana Sibanda, Deadly ebola scare at Mpilo Hospital, The Zimbabwean Mail, published:28 Apr 2014,retrieved:30 December 2014"
- Walter Nyamukondiwa, Kadoma Ebola fears dismissed, The Chronicle, published:13 Aug 2014,retrieved:30 December 2014"
- Nkosana Sibanda, ‘Hoax’ Ebola scare in Byo, The Zimbabwean Mail, published:28 Aug 2014,retrieved:30 December 2014"
- Parirenyatwa Hospital dismisses Ebola scare claims, New Zimbabwe, published:18 Sep 2014,retrieved:30 December 2014"
- Wongai Zhangazha, Ebola: Zimbabweans in mortal fear, Zimbabwe Independent, published:20 Oct 2014,retrieved:30 December 2014"
- Lockdown in Harare over Ebola scare, New Zimbabwe, published:9 Oct 2014,retrieved:30 December 2014"
- Ebola Scare Death in Murehwa: Zim Govt Silent, ZimEye, published:3 Oct 2014,retrieved:30 December 2014"
- Ebola: Ambulance crew flees Kwekwe scare, New Zimbabwe, published:20 Oct 2014,retrieved:30 December 2014"
- Sofia Mapuranga, Health ministry launches Ebola website, The Zimbabwean, published:30 Oct 2014,retrieved:30 December 2014"
- Nkosana Sibanda, Laxity in Ebola screening: Minister expresses shock, The Zimbabwe Mail, published:17 Dec 2014,retrieved:30 December 2014"