South African countries team up to fight Ebola

Health ministers in southern Africa have agreed to take coordinated action, including quarantining people travelling from Ebola virus disease-affected West African countries.

Harare: Health ministers in southern Africa have agreed to take coordinated action, including quarantining people travelling from Ebola virus disease-affected West African countries.

Southern African Development Community (SADC) health ministers held an extraordinary meeting in Zimbabwe to discuss their response to the Ebola outbreak, Xinhua reported.

A statement released after the meeting Tuesday said that authorities in the region will screen travellers at all critical points of entry and exit and people with a history of close contact with those infected, the infected dead bodies and the infected animals will be quarantined for a period of up to 21 days.

The 15 member states of the SADC were also urged to discourage their citizens from travelling to the affected countries, as well as to avoid hosting mass gatherings involving people from affected countries unless it was absolutely essential.

The common position on travel restrictions becomes the first clearest sign of a regional response to the epidemic. So far, only one country in the region, the Democratic Republic of Congo, has recorded Ebola cases from a separate outbreak not related to the outbreak in West Africa.

David Parirenyatwa, chairperson of the SADC health ministers, who is also Zimbabwe's health minister, emphasised the need for cross-border consultations to facilitate exchange of information, and agreeing on joint collaborative actions and for SADC member states to strengthen surveillance, case finding and detection, reporting and contact tracing, and sharing information on Ebola with WHO in a timely manner.

The epidemic has now claimed more than 2,000 lives in West Africa since its outbreak in Guinea this year.

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