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In a major breakthrough, the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday announced that it had approved a rapid diagnostic test kit for Ebola that can provide results in 15 minutes and correctly identify 92% of patients infected by the disease.

The turn-around time of current tests for Ebola can vary between 12 and 24 hours and so the unveiling of the new test kit will go a long way in managing the disease better.

According to the international health body, not only is the antigen kit faster, but easy to perform. It does not require electricity and can therefore be used in lower health care facilities, or in mobile units for patients in remote settings. It also does not require highly trained personnel. However the new test is a little bit less accurate than the test that WHO was currently using.

The spokesman for WHO Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva that the test kit was developed by the US-based Corgenix Medical Corporation and WHO evaluated it under its Emergency Assessment and Use procedure that seeks to provide minimum quality, safety and performance assurances.

Already a number of agencies, such as the Meacutedecins Sans Frontiegraveres (MSF), have expressed interest in purchasing the kit.

The price of the kit has not yet been set as Corgenix is currently wrapping up some administrative procedures with the US Food and Drug Administration. The process is likely to take around two weeks after which the test kits will be readily available.

Meanwhile, the Ebola team at the UN headquarters has urged stakeholders to remain vigilant until there was not a single Ebola case.

The UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola David Nabarro said as long as there were cases of Ebola, it was still a dangerous situation.

He expressed concern about the recent slowdown in the pattern of decline in cases over the last four weeks in the three most affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

He also said the rainy season posed a challenge as it could give the virus a chance to get ahead of the response.

The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has affected more than 23 000 people with over 9 400 deaths, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

While Zimbabwe has not recorded any Ebola cases, it is susceptible to the virus because it is a transit route from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the disease was first identified in 1976, to South Africa.

The government has continuously watered down concerns about the country’s preparedness in the face of a collapsed healthy delivery system.

Source : Zimbabwe Standard

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