By Olwethu Boso
In late August, Senegal reported its first Ebola case affecting a 21-year-old university student from Guinea. Being an internationally-recognised university, where over 20% of the student body is foreign, this situation could easily have occurred at Rhodes University.
The prevailing attitude among students seems to be ‘Well it wasn’t and hasn’t been’ or ‘As long as it’s far away then it doesn’t affect me’. However, being in denial of, or ignorant about, a health issue of this magnitude does not reflect the seriousness of this issue.
In a statement released in July, Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, said the OR Tambo International Airport and Lanseria Airport (both in Gauteng) have thermal scanners that detect travelers with raised temperatures.
“These travelers, when identified, are assessed at the medical facilities at these airports,” said Motsoaledi.
A month later, Motsoaledi, announced that all travelers returning from Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, will be subjected to thorough screening and medical assessments before being allowed entry into South Africa.
With a number of South African airlines having cancelled flights in and out of affected West African countries, it is possible that international students will find it increasingly difficult to reach their destination countries for study or to return home.
Omoyosola Oridota, a Nigerian citizen currently studying towards a Bachelor of Pharmacy at Rhodes University, said she is more worried about next year when she has to return to South Africa for her fourth year studies.
“I will possibly have to make arrangements to travel back to school a week or so in advance in case any tests need to be done. That way I won’t miss out on lectures,” she said.
Motsoaledi, in his statement, appointed Frere Hospital and Livingstone Hospital as treatment centres in the Eastern Cape. In a recent interview with WildCoast FM, Frere Hospital CEO, Dr. Rolene Wagner said that they were ready.
“Although there is no dedicated unit standing empty and awaiting Ebola patients, there are highly responsive protocols in place that would make the present state-of-the art, high care unit and intensive care unit (ICU) available in the event of an outbreak,” said Wagner.
Wagner explained should there be more than two cases, the remaining six beds in the high care unit will be made available, while the inter-leading 16-bed ICU can be incorporated in the case of a more serious outbreak. Patients will immediately be isolated and the route to the high-care facility, including passages and lifts, will be cleared by security.
Ebola readiness at Rhodes has been low-key. A notice, headed “Ebola Preparedness”, situated by the reception area of the Health Centre has apparently been circulated to staff, . The notice elaborates on what Ebola is and how it is transmitted and provides staff and students guidelines on how they can protect themselves.
What is Ebola?
According to the World Health Organisation, Ebola is a virus that attacks the human blood system. It is called a haemorrhagic fever. Up to 90% of people who contract the virus will die from it because there is no cure or treatment. Victims are usually treated for symptoms with the hope that they will recover.
- Through direct contact with blood, bodily fluids and secretions of an infected person.
- Contact with contaminated objects, such as needles.
- Contact with infected animal; possibly eating contaminated meat.
Do Rhodes University students think Ebola will reach Rhodes University?