Infectious diseases are a major issue in Africa at large, especially for businesses with activities in the region. According to the World Health Organisation, 96% of all malaria deaths were from the continent. Not having a proper health preparedness plan in place, or access to a dedicated health advisor, can impact on business continuity if an organisation is affected by one of the several infectious diseases present on the continent. The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa is testament to this fact, with several organisations having had to shut down their operations.
There are presently major projects underway in Uganda, and the current Ebola outbreak in the country is a significant concern for organisations with employees based or travelling there.
This current outbreak in Uganda is caused by the Sudan Ebola virus strain, while most of the outbreaks in Western Africa in previous years were related to the Zaire strain of Ebola virus. Since there are no licensed vaccines currently available against the Sudan strain of the Ebola virus, it is important to have updated medical information regarding the current outbreak, and to prioritise communication and education on Ebola prevention.
Ebola virus can be spread through:
- Direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person
- Direct contact with, or eating the meat of infected animal
Exposure to contaminated environment or items (e.g. needles or soiled bed linen)
Unprotected sex with an infected person, including those who have survived infection
Dr Andre Willemse is one of our medical experts in Africa, and he has dealt with previous Ebola outbreaks in the region. During our recent webinar, he shared his insights and recommendations on how organisations can best protect their workforce and operations against this virus. We have summarised them for you below.
Our Recommended Dos
- Awareness training of your workforce
Regular communication with your workforce, and educating them on the disease and its prevention are crucial. Train your employees on how the virus spreads, what the signs and symptoms are, and especially on the mitigation measures they can take to protect themselves and others. For example, airborne spread is not a route of transmission of the disease, but misinformation on this aspect could lead to unnecessary concern among your workforce.
It is equally important for your organisation, at the management level, to have access to updated and credible medical information, with the presence of an experienced health advisor to support you.
Awareness training will not only contribute to the health and safety of your employees but will also ensure that they share the right information with their dependents and the people around them – thus potentially contributing to limiting the risk of transmission in the communities surrounding project sites.
- Control access to your project site
Maintaining rigorous controls as to who enters your site, and when and how they enter, will ensure there is limited risk of the virus spreading and disrupting your activities. This will also help make your workforce feel safer as to the risk of transmission.
- Regular screening of employees and trained medical personnel
Ensure you have trained medical personnel on your premises to perform appropriate screening and triage of your workforce to identify symptomatic individuals early. Allocate designated isolation areas should an individual require isolation while awaiting further evaluation and support from the authorities. This will allow for safe and appropriate management of suspected cases and comply with government guidelines. You should also be well aware of the latest local public health regulations, including care pathways for referral of any suspected cases within your workforce.
Our Recommended Don'ts
- On-site Ebola laboratory testing set-ups
- Dedicated Ebola treatment facilities
- Own surveillance and contact tracing
It is important for employers to ensure that their workforce has access to credible information in order to dispel fears, and to make sure that they have trained medical personnel on-site to handle any potential cases of Ebola.
The situation in Uganda remains fluid and our teams are following the situation closely to provide verified and up to date information and advice. International SOS members can access the latest insights about this outbreak and other infectious diseases on our pandemic portal here.