Helen Kadirire 17 August 2018
HARARE – Panic has gripped the country following the death of a man in the
border town of Beitbridge on Sunday from a disease whose symptoms match
those of the deadly Ebola virus, which has resurfaced in the Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC).
Yesterday, government moved swiftly to allay fears that the cross-border
haulage truck driver could not have succumbed to Ebola, saying he died as
a result of meningitis.
Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa told the Daily News
yesterday that the Beitbridge Border Post death had nothing to do with
Ebola – a rare and deadly disease spread by direct contact with blood or
body fluids of a person infected with the virus.
“Our health workers attended to a truck driver who had collapsed at a
truck parking lot in Beitbridge,” he said.
“The truck driver was coming from South Africa into Zimbabwe. He died on
admission at Beitbridge District Hospital and of note is he had defaulted
on his chronic medication for some time. He had signs and symptoms of
meningitis and not Ebola,” added Parirenyatwa.
The Health and Child Care minister said the man had visited the DRC more
than a month ago to an area in Katanga Province near Zambia.
This area has not reported Ebola and it is an Ebola-free area.
Zimbabwe is, however, not leaving anything to chance and has since
activated all the relevant organs to be on high alert.
“Our health workers are on high alert at all border crossings screening
travellers into the country especially those that are sick,” said
The DRC is currently in the throes of fighting the disease after it
resurfaced in the mineral rich country less than three years after it
killed 11 000 people in West Africa.
The latest outbreak of Ebola in the DRC has put the whole region on high
alert following a warning by World Health Organisation director-general
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that the deadly disease had the potential to
spread rapidly in DRC, which has effectively become a war zone.
“The environment is really conducive for Ebola to transmit freely. This is
a very dangerous outbreak.
“What makes the outbreak in eastern DRC or northern Kivu more dangerous is
there is a security challenge – there is active conflict in that area,”
He said the ongoing fighting in DRC, which has had 10 outbreaks of Ebola
in the last 40 years, is making it difficult for health officials and aid
agencies to access some areas that have been designated “red zones” due to
This, he added, is making it hard to find, isolate and treat potential
Ghebreyesus said the DRC war zones were potential “hiding places” for the
disease, which WHO figures suggest has a mortality rate of about 50
According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms of Ebola
include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhoea,
vomiting, abdominal (stomach) pain and unexplained haemorrhage (bleeding
The CDC also said that symptoms may appear from between two to 21 days
after contact with the virus, with an average of eight to 10 days.