Fear and panic engulfed the country yesterday following reports of an Ebola case at Mbilima in Chitipa , only to learn it was part of a planned simulation exercise.
It emerged yesterday afternoon that the Ministry of Health (MoH) was conducting an open small-scale field simulation exercise in Chitipa and Karonga to test the country’s preparedness for Ebola response.
From Tuesday evening, the social media was awash with reports that a suspect, reported to have visited the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where Ebola has already claimed lives, presented with diarrhoea, vomiting and general body pains.
According to Chitipa district commissioner Humphreys Gondwe, even the district’s health office did not know that the said person was only part of the simulation.
He said: “I called for a meeting with our district health officer. He too did not know that it was just a drill. We all panicked. That patient was taken to Karonga District Hospital, only later to be told that it was a simulation exercise.”
On his part, Karonga district health officer Phineas Mfune said they received the said patient, but were also later told that it was just a preparedness exercise.
In a statement yesterday, MoH chief director Beston Chisamile said government, through the Public Health Institute of Malawi, developed a comprehensive Ebola preparedness and response plan.
Besides the simulation, Chisamile said government has also developed and adapted standard operating procedures, enhanced surveillance at ports of entry and trained health workers as well as raising public awareness.
In a separate interview, MoH spokesperson Joshua Malango said they did not warn health workers about the exercise to test their response plan.
Last month, results from a South African laboratory confirmed that a 37-year-old man who died at Karonga District Hospital did not have the Ebola virus, allaying fears that the deadly disease had hit the country.
According to a document on activities aimed at preventing Ebola, initiatives implemented so far include training of 715 health workers in Chitipa, Karonga, Mzuzu, Nkhata Bay, Lilongwe, Mchinji, Dedza and Blantyre districts.