Ebola: Stellenbosch youth uninformed and uneasy

“Although I don’t know much about Ebola, what I do know is that people are dying,” says Donovan Blignaut.

Nathaniel Witbooi asked “is Ebola a person?”

Dijan Botha threatened to leave the African continent, adding that “Ebola is like a flying spider. It is a HIV and TB hybrid, which can be easily contracted through the air”.

Though many Stellenbosch youth do not know a great deal about the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), most of them are frightened of its potential impact on South Africa.

Clinical psychologist at 2 Military Hospital Top of Form

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Tracy-Lee Arendse stated that “from a psychological perspective there are definite ties between limited knowledge and the fear that the Ebola virus elicits.

“People who are not completely informed have all kinds of ideas and phantasies about what the virus can do and how dangerous it is. They usually associate it with their worst fears, example dying.”

Dr Deidre Hendrikse from the Eastern Cape Department of Health maintained that there is no cause for alarm.

“Hospitals within each province have been identified as being the ‘go-to’ hospitals for possible cases: Tygerberg Hospital in the Western Cape.

“Specific protocols and guidelines are available, and have actually been for years, with adequately trained health care workers to ensure the best controlled environment if suspected cases arise,” Hendrikse said.

Arendse said that misunderstood or misconstrued information cause unnecessary distress. “We should be educated on Ebola in order to dispute irrational thoughts and beliefs,” she added.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), “a major global player in infectious disease intelligence” fulfils the role of being “a resource of knowledge and expertise in regionally relevant communicable diseases to the South African Government, to SADC countries and the African continent.”

A statement by this organisation included a list of things one should know about the “deadly viral disease”: IVD was formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, as infected individuals potentially experience “bleeding inside and outside of the body”. The virus is spread via direct interaction with the bodily fluids of the infected and is therefore not an airborne disease, “so simply being in the same room as an infected person … is not a risk for infection.”

Also, there is no cure or vaccine for the Ebola virus and treatment is limited to supportive therapy. In preceding outbreaks, 50 – 90% of Ebola patients have died. Still the risk of EVD cases being imported into South Africa is believed to be low.

The statements also highlighted the fact that “at 14 August 2014 noon, there have been no laboratory-confirmed cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in South Africa associated with the current outbreak in West Africa (affecting Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria).”

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