20 October 2001

Uganda: Govt Bodies Form Anthrax Task Force

HEALTH and security departments have formed a joint task force to deal with Anthrax, the bioterrorism threat.

The move comes a day after a Kenyan businessman received a letter stuffed with anthrax germs. Three other members of his family were exposed to the germs.

Health minister Jim Muhwezi yesterday told a press conference that the national task force on bioterrorism would consider all potential biohazards including anthrax. He said an inter-ministerial team would meet at the Ministry of Health on Tuesday to boost the task force.

The task force chaired by the Director General of Health Services, Prof. Francis Omaswa, includes representatives from all security organs, the World Health Organisation, Uganda Post Limited, Uganda Revenue Authority, Entebbe International Airport and Mulago Hospital.

"The reports of anthrax scare across the world and recently in Kenya pose a significant threat to the health of our people. The deliberate mailing of such germs to innocent people should be condemned in the strongest terms," Muhwezi said.

He said whereas there have been no cases of anthrax attacks in Uganda, the public and health officials should be vigilant. He said people should report any suspected cases of the disease to health officials, local council leaders or security agencies.

The ministry has also established hotlines on which the public can get more information about anthrax or report suspected cases. The phone numbers are 077-507799, 077-423932, 077-667717 and 071-745019.

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