The Star (Nairobi)

2 August 2012

Kenya: Border Screening for Ebola Faces Major Challenges

THE 24-hour screening of travellers from Uganda at the Malaba border frontier office for Ebola is being hampered by language barrier.

Public health officer Charles Magomere said most travellers from DR Congo and Ethiopia cannot communicate in either English or Kiswahili.

Magomere said lack of French or Arabic translators is a major impediment in their efforts to communicate with them.

Senior immigrations officer, Wilfred Chepkole said tough measures have been put in place to ensure that the country is free from the deadly Ebola.

Chepkole said they are only carrying visual screening by looking out for the signs and symptoms of Ebola.

Border residents have expressed fears that they are seating on a time bomb since no adequate measures have been put in place should one visitor test positive for Ebola.

They said Public Health personnel have not been equipped with protective gear yet they come into direct contact with travellers.

More than 300 people have been screened since July 28.

However, lack of personnel at the frontier office is slowing down the exercise.

Only three PHOs have been deployed in shifts to screen travellers.

The three can barely manage the large number of people coming in through the border.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Melisa Lutomia said the number of medical staff has been increased to enable them operate in both day and night shifts.

"We do not want to take chances as Ebola is a deadly disease. The frontier office must therefore enhance screening of travellers entering Kenya," Lutomia said.

She added that all health facilities in the district have been put on high alert and advised to be highly suspicious in cases where patients display signs and symptoms similar to those of Ebola.

Lutomia said they will teach health care workers and the community the signs and symptoms of Ebola.

She said this will enable them report any suspicious case on time.

She the public to avoid shaking hands and handling other people's blood and bodily fluids .

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