x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Kenya on alert as ebola outbreak spreads

Kenya has placed its laboratories on high alert and dispatched protective medical gear to its border provinces after an outbreak of ebola in neighbouring Uganda.

World Health Organization staff wear protective clothing as they prepare to enter Kagadi Hospital, about 200 kilometres from Kampala, where an outbreak of Ebola virus started.
World Health Organization staff wear protective clothing as they prepare to enter Kagadi Hospital, about 200 kilometres from Kampala, where an outbreak of Ebola virus started.

Kenya has placed its laboratories on high alert and dispatched protective medical gear to its border provinces after an outbreak of ebola in neighbouring Uganda killed at least 14 people.

Measures to detect the virus, including raising awareness and screenings at airports and border crossings, have been "invigorated" since the disease was detected in western Uganda on July 6, according to Shikanga O-tipo, the head of the integrated disease surveillance unit at Kenya's public health ministry.

"The ministry has put in place measures to ensure that the outbreak does not find its way into the country, so that if by any chance any case finds its way in, it is detected on time, and response mounted to stop local transmission," Mr O-tipo said.

The current outbreak of ebola, for which there is no specific treatment or vaccine, is the worst in Uganda since 2007, when 42 people died from the disease, according to data on the US centre for disease control's website.

"We have confidence in the system," Mr O-tipo said. "We have no doubt that if there was to be an event in the country, we would pick it up in time and mount an appropriate response. The country has no reason to worry."

Rwanda, Uganda's southern neighbour, also took steps to detect the disease, the health ministry said in a statement yesterday in Kigali, the capital.

"Though no case has been reported in Rwanda for the last 15 years, the government has put in place measures aimed at protecting the public from this deadly disease," the ministry said.

"It is also cautioning Rwandans to remain vigilant and report any suspected cases immediately."

The outbreak began in Kibaale, 175 kilometres west of Kampala, Uganda's capital, according to the ministry.

The authority is monitoring 34 health workers who came in contact with people suspected to have the virus.

A total of 25 people have been infected with the disease, according to the Daily Monitor, a Kampala-based newspaper.

The ministry was to issue a statement yesterday.

The Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, on Sunday issued an appeal for citizens to report all suspected cases of the illness, and to avoid contact with those who may have the disease.

"We discourage the shaking of hands because that can cause contact through sweat, which can cause problems," he said.

"And when people are sick in hospitals with symptoms that look like ebola, they should be handled by medical workers wearing protective gear."

About 1,850 cases of the disease - with more than 1,200 deaths - have been documented since ebola was discovered in 1976, according to the World Health Organisation.

While the illness can be transmitted by animals, including chimpanzees and primates, the natural reservoir of the virus is unknown, according to the Geneva-based agency's website.