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Kenya on high alert for Ebola after cases found in Uganda

Wednesday June 12 2019

Busia Ebola screening

Travellers are screened for the Ebola virus before getting into Kenya at the Busia One Stop Border Post on June 12, 2019, following three confirmed cases in Kasese, western Uganda. PHOTO | GAITANO PESSA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

GAITANO PESSA
By GAITANO PESSA
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Kenyan health officers at the Busia One Stop Border Post are on high alert following an Ebola outbreak in neighbouring Uganda.

Screening for the killer Ebola virus at the border was intensified on Wednesday, following the outbreak in Kasese in western Uganda.

More than 300 travellers have been screened since the outbreak was reported, Port Health Services Officer Joshua Arusei told the Nation on Wednesday.

He said officers were examining all travellers from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

READY

When the Nation visited the post, officials were using thermo-guns to check temperature levels. They noted that thermo-guns prevent direct contact with travellers.

“We are also checking travel records using passports before allowing the travellers into the country” Mr Arusei said, adding the department was ready for eventualities.

“We are ready to attend to emergencies at Busia County Referral Hospital just metres away. All suspected cases, especially for those found with temperatures above 38 degrees, must be quarantined,” he said.

Mr Arusei urged the public to use designated routes in order for officials to examine them in the bid to prevent infections and an outbreak.

“We are working closely with police to ensure everybody uses designated routes," he said.

However, a spot check by the Nation revealed that some Ugandan and Kenyan citizens were moving freely without necessarily being subjected to screening, posing a threat.

OFFICIAL ALERT

The Health ministry issued a statement, saying it had issued an alert to all health workers and the public for enhancement of surveillance measures.

"The ministry continues to monitor the evolution of the prolonged Ebola outbreak in the DRC which began in August 2018, with a view to strengthening the country's preparedness and response capacity," the statement said.

Besides issuing the alert and heightening screening, the ministry and other actors have:

  1. Developed an Ebola Contingency Plan to guide implementation of prevention and response activities.

  2. Set up a multiagency preparedness and response committee to coordinate preparedness and response measures.

  3. Established Ebola Rapid Response Teams, which are made up of medical specialists in disease control and laboratory scientists trained in investigation and testing. The ministry noted that Kenya has Ebola experts who responded to the 2014-16 outbreaks in West Africa.

  4. Made arrangements for the isolation of suspected cases, using the Ebola Treatment Unit at Kenyatta National Hospital and temporary holding rooms at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. People suspected to have the virus will be kept in the holding rooms and examined for possible transfer to isolation facilities.

  5. Prepositioned personal protective equipment and other supplies at all points of entry into Kenya. These include hand hygiene supplies, examination equipment and pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical supplies.

SYMPTOMS

People infected with Ebola do not become contagious until symptoms appear, which is after an incubation period of between two and 21 days.

High fever, weakness, intense muscle and joint pain, headaches and a sore throat are often followed by vomiting and diarrhoea, skin eruptions, kidney and liver failure, internal and external bleeding.

To contain the spread of the virus, patients and people who have been in contact with them are routinely isolated.

Medical personnel are meticulously protected with disposable full-body plastic suits, masks, goggles, gloves and disinfecting sprays.

The ministry asked the public to be vigilant and report suspected cases of the virus to the nearest health facilities or through its emergency operations centre via hotlines 0732 353535 and 0729 471414.

Additional reporting by AFP