Africa needs to look inward to tackle Ebola


“We have to put into place surveillance, we have to educate health workers about case definitions, we have to strengthen our laboratories, we have to make sure that the health workers have the appropriate training to be able to identify if people have been exposed,” Sarah Barber, country representative for South Africa for the World Health Organisation, told CNBC Africa.

“This emergency declaration today [by the World Health Organisation] has advised all of the member states essentially outside of those affected countries that they do need to be prepared, and they do need to be prepared to detect, to investigate, to manage Ebola cases and this includes essentially screening passengers at port of entry.”

This comes after The United States Food and Drug Association (FDA) announced on Friday that it has authorised a diagnostic test used to detect Ebola to be used to fight the spread of the disease.


(READ MORE: Update on WHO’s Ebola annoncement)

The test, known as DoD EZ1 Real-time RT-PCR Assay, has not yet been approved but the FDA can however issue emergency authorisation for use of an unapproved drug in the event that no other appropriate alternative is available.

The as DoD EZ1 Real-time RT-PCR Assay test also comes after reports that ZMapp, an experimental serum that was first tested on humans this month, surfaced as a possible treatment for the disease.

In an additional effort to control the outbreak, Nigeria’s ministry of health had requested the help of the United States government for ZMapp, but the US government has however been unable to fulfil the request because of the trial nature of the drug.

In recent, reports however, Misaki Wayengera, Uganda’s principal investigator for the Ebola rapid diagnostic test kit, explained that the severe Ebola outbreak is a cue for Africa to begin investing in its own medical research and developments. He added that the continent’s “dependency syndrome” was however preventing such action from happening.

(READ MORE: Ebola outbreak hampers key industries in West Africa)

Meanwhile, Barber called for a widespread drive of awareness and proper information dissemination of Ebola’s symptoms and how it is contracted to avoid any more misunderstanding.

“This is not a disease that is transmitted by casual contact. It’s not transmitted through the air. It’s spread by direct person to person contact, through physical contact with people or animals that have suffered from Ebola or have died from Ebola,” said Barber.