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Zambia screens travelers for Ebola

By Francis Maingaila
LUSAKA (AA) – Zambian authorities have decided to screen arriving travellers in a bid to prevent the appearance of the deadly Ebola virus in the country. "As a measure likely to contain the outbreak of Ebola and for the purpose of identifying and responding to the challenges of the diseases in an event it breaks out any time, my ministry has developed a surveillance system not only aimed at monitoring the movement of people coming in and out of the country, but also screening them," Health Minister Dr. Joseph Kasonde told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
He said that although Zambia had not recorded any cases of Ebola, there was a chance that the deadly virus could reach the country through people coming from affected countries.
"It is, therefore, proper that people at the entry and exit points are screened," Dr. Kasonde asserted.
Ebola, a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure, has claimed hundreds of lives in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.Nigeria has confirmed two Ebola fatalities, including a visiting Liberian man.
Benin has also reported two Ebola fatalities, including one man returning from the Nigerian city of Lagos.
The tropical fever, which first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, can be transmitted to humans from wild animals.
It also spreads through contact with the body fluids of infected persons or those who have died from the disease.
Minister Kasonde asserted that the screening exercise was not selective.
"It is for everyone who arrives at the airport; this does not exclude Zambians who arrive home," he said.
The minister said trained health personnel would be stationed at points of entry and exit across the country.
"After screening, those… found to have the Ebola virus will be quarantined, and this includes Zambians," he added.
"Those who are free from the Ebola virus will be allowed to conduct their normal businesses in Zambia. This includes those from Ebola-prone countries in West Africa," said the minister.
Dr. Kasonde explained that, due to the severity of the Ebola outbreak, the government would do everything possible to ensure the virus did not find its way into Zambia.
"Just in case it finds itself in through the movements of people, it will find us prepared," he told AA. "That is the reason why we have put all these measures in place."
The government has trained a considerable number of health personnel how to identify and respond to the Ebola virus.
"We don't want to take chances," said the health minister, adding that the authorities were emulating an international warning mechanism as laid down by the World Health Organization (WHO).
"My ministry has trained health personnel who have been stationed in all referral hospitals across the country," said Kasonde. "We want to ensure that people are sensitized in terms of the signs and occurrence of the Ebola virus."

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