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Ebola in Mauritius

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Ebola discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo, crept its way back in our lives in 2014. Mauritius despite being part of the African Continent does not have any registered case of Ebola, but till when? Is it a matter of days? Hours? The apocalyptic downfall that Ebola will bring leave little to the imagination. We read about it in newspapers, we hear about it from international media, it is in the news, thankfully not yet in our homes. Many believe that it will not reach our shores, how far is that sensible? We did the same mistake with Chikungunya and the price was heavy. Make no mistake, Ebola is not Chikungunya, its worst, by miles. Ebola has a deadly strike of 71 % and an incubation stage of 21 days..

That Mauritius dependency on Tourism, is not a state secret. Imagine for one moment how low our occupancy rate in tourist resorts would drop and the effect it will have on the thousands of people who work in the industry. To start with, planes to Mauritius may be cancelled, just like the many reputed international airlines did for their flights bound for Ebola infected countries. The paranoia is such that even African Countries that are found hundred of miles from the Epicentre of Ebola have felt the major downfall with seminars cancelled, hotel bookings at lowest, economy slacked and cut of investment. Ebola does not only affect people but also economies and countries at large. Now we may say that this may not happen, that we may rest on our laurels with a peace of mind, but is this responsable?

Over the past weeks there have been three suspected cases one in Reunion and two in Mauritius. The first, a citizen  who toured several African Ebola infected countries, falsely claimed to have been in Mali instead where Ebola is less spread. Airport Authorities did not properly track his movements during the last months. He successfully crossed the security barriers at SSR International airport. After suffering from symptoms similar to Ebola, he was admitted, after 6 hours, Ebola was ruled out, to much relief. That person could have had Ebola instead of Malaria. Admittedly he lied on his itinerary, but that doesn't excuse the fact that our Airport Authorities could not track his journey. Imagine for a moment he was infected with Ebola, his immediate family would have contracted the deadly disease, possibly the doctor who consulted him as well. The panic that would have ensued had this case averred to be a genuine case of Ebola. In less than a jiffy, Ebola would have been hovering in our streets, our houses, our schools, everywhere.

Ebola Test

Mauritius is a closely knit country and Ebola would have found no major difficulty to find refuge in the country. Imagine this for a moment, an outbreak of Ebola, our schools would most likely need to be temporarily closed, people would not dare get out of their houses, our roads would have been deserted. Building the confidence again to what it was, would have taken time and needed tremendous resources, albeit our already precarious dependency on tourism and the offshore sector as a main sources of revenue. Our Economy would have become slack and suffer inevitably, investors would avoid Mauritius while massive investments would have to be done in the health sector. This is not from a science fiction movie, this is not from a movie script, its a reality that we may face, its a probability that we cannot rule out. We need to educate our population, misconceptions often create more issues to deal with, myths about Ebola should be brought down. We need to focus on proactive measures to be ready if it stuck our shores, our population needs to be ready for this, and for that to happen a vast campaign of awareness should be carried out. A subtle informative campaign, swift, focused in schools, workplaces, public places, would be ideal to create a mindset ready to battle  and defeat Ebola. It has to be done NOW. This proactivity could prove determinant.

The Government of Mauritius has taken some steps in a National Preparedness Plan for Ebola but let’s dig deeper in that. 4 isolation rooms have been set up, each with 3 beds. Can an isolation room have 3 bed? What if out of these 3 person, 2 have Ebola and one does not. Are we going to put everyone together in the same basket and infect those who do not have Ebola?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (USA) purports a single patient- room, with a single bed, in Mauritius we are putting 12 people in 4 rooms. We are in clear contradiction to the CDC. As far as it has been understood no real proper strategy have been put in place for cases who may be detected in private hospital. Ideally North, East, West, South should have their own isolation ward.

                                     Ebola Test Laboratories

A communiquer dated 12th September 2014 from the Passport and Immigration Office of Mauritius, stated that directives that have been given to temporarily restrict nationals of some African Countries to embark to Mauritius on a temporary basis, concerned countries are Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Senegal and Congo. While the idea is very laudable, and will reduce the possibility for us to get infected, the fact remains that the SSR International Airport Authorities were unable to track the journey of those who went in Ebola Countries.  You might say that this apocalyptic era might not come to our shores, my question is : how much do you value your health? How much do you value life? How much do you value the health of your relatives? Does it have a price? No it doesnt! Being proactive to a disease with a mortality rate of 71 % is the best thing to do. Health simply has no price, neither life, yours and those of people for whom you care. In this regard our shield should be held high till the World Health Organisation does not declare the current outbreak of Ebola to have been eliminated. Discovered in 1976. Ebola came back from the dead and crept back in our lives…

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Arshad Dewkunkhan is Editor at Mauritius Yellow Pages, aged 25, resident of Rose - Hill. Former student of the St Joseph college with a formal education at College and University in Business Side.   Arshad is an avide reader, manages several Social Media pages, a football fanatic and loves spending time by nature.  

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