Govt: We have no reason to hide Ebola cases

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says it’s not in government’s interest to hide suspected Ebola cases in SA.

A nurse wears protective clothing as he demonstrates the facilities in place at the Royal Free Hospital in north London on 6 August 2014, in preparation for a patient testing positive for the Ebola virus. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Government says it has no reason to hide any suspected Ebola cases in the country from the public.

On Thursday the Democratic Alliance (DA) incorrectly published a statement saying that a woman was admitted to the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital in Gauteng with Ebola symptoms.

While the pregnant woman, who came to South Africa from Guinea, tested negative for the virus, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says government will alert the public if it believes Ebola is in the country.

"The sooner we disclose the fact that we've got Ebola, the better because then people will know how to safeguard themselves. This is in our interest."

The minister, during an urgent media briefing on Thursday, confirmed the pregnant woman tested negative for the virus but lashed out at the DA, saying the party acted irresponsibly by publishing a statement before gathering the full facts.

Motsoaledi says the woman was placed in isolation as a precaution, while waiting for test results.

"You are going to get many people from that part of the world who are feverish. Fever is a very common thing. There was no indication whatsoever that this woman could contract Ebola but nevertheless we took those precautions. We took blood samples."

He says the woman was still in hospital.

The minister says the country has already identified and equipped 11 hospitals to deal with any suspected Ebola cases.

The virus has claimed more than 1,000 lives since it spread to several West African countries in March.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says it believes the number of deaths and confirmed cases of Ebola in West Africa has been vastly underestimated.

The death toll from the outbreak currently stands at 1,069 people and there've been 1, 975 confirmed probable or suspected cases.

The majority of the cases have occurred in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Four deaths have also been reported in Nigeria.