Lesotho’s ‘first case of Ebola’ was a ‘simulation exercise’

File picture. Health personnel work inside the 'red zone' of an Ebola treatment centre in Butemb. Picture: AFP / File / JOHN WESSELS

South Africans woke up to fears that Ebola is on our border, only for this to be a false alarm.

A woman who displayed symptoms of the Ebola virus at the Ficksburg border was falsely confirmed to have contracted the disease, after EWN and other outlets reported on this on Thursday morning.

It was later revealed to have been a “simulation exercise”. EWN published an update that the Lesotho health ministry would provide an update on the simulation later today.

The woman reportedly said she had come into contact with a Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) national while in South Africa.

Health officials in Lesotho then told EWN that tests conducted in Johannesburg confirmed that the woman tested positive for the Ebola virus. They also told EWN that details would be provided later.

News24 then revealed that it was actually all a simulation exercise.

The International Health Regulations (IHR) in Lesotho said in a statement that there had been an Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) exercise simulation on November 13 between the border gates of Ficksburg and Maputsoe.

“This was first Small Scale Field Simulation Exercise (SSFX) conducted to test the preparedness and response to the PHEIC,” they said in their statement.

It was supposedly undertaken to test capacities.

“The IHR office therefore wishes to inform the public and all other stakeholders that the minister of health will release a statement to address the outcomes of the simulation exercise … in Leribe,” the IHR said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced on Tuesday that it has prequalified the first Ebola vaccine, a “critical step” towards licensing, access and roll-out in countries most at risk of deadly outbreaks, such as the DRC.

“This is a historic step towards ensuring the people who most need it are able to access this life-saving vaccine,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Five years ago, we had no vaccine and no therapeutics for Ebola. With a prequalified vaccine and experimental therapeutics, Ebola is now preventable and treatable.”

The vaccine prequalification was accelerated by reviewing safety and efficacy data as information is made available, which Dr Tredos said was the result of the global community’s concerted effort to “prioritise the health needs of vulnerable people”.

(Compiled by Nica Schreuder)

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