The Star (Nairobi)

29 July 2014

Kenyan Officials to Meet Over Ebola Risk

Photo: Samaritan's Purse
Hospital staff respond to a suspected Ebola patient in the triage tent in Monrovia (file photo).

SENIOR ministry of Health officials will today hold an emergency meeting to draw up a plan to curb the threat of the Ebola virus countrywide.

The meeting has been informed by the threat of the disease, which has rocked several West African states, with Nigeria being the latest casualty.

However, the acting head of Disease Surveillance and Response, O-Tipo Shikanga, has called on the public not to panic as the government is working round-the-clock to seal loopholes and prevent the entry of any cases, especially from West African passengers.

"We have written an alert that has been signed by the director of Medical Services [Nicholas Muraguri] and sent it out to all county medical centres," Shikanga said.

The alert has been dispatched to Port Health Services countrywide, with enhanced screening being tightened at border points to arrest any eventuality prior to getting into the country.

"We are at risk and are not taking any chances as we continue to ensure that the minimum number of protection measures is put in place to arrest any possible case," Shikanga said, emphasizing that procedures have been put in place to ensure the country is protected.

"We have come up with a requirement for airlines carrying passengers from Wes Africa to include their personal details; say where they are from and where they have been residing in the last 21 days," Shikanga said.

A Liberian man died on Sunday upon landing in Lagos. He is reported to have boarded the plane despite having a high fever that resulted in his vomiting aboard the craft.

The 40-year-old passenger is reported to have died upon landing in the populous city, despite being moved to an isolation ward.

The frightening news has compelled MoH to ensure personnel deployed to screen incoming passengers are under strict instructions to "look for symptoms that include any information detailing if the person was in contact with a sick patient or attended the burial of a person who died from the disease".

Speaking yesterday to the Star on the phone, Shikanga said that no chances are being taken, as the latest case had been transported by the traditional safest and fastest mode of transportation - aviation.

"However, we are telling people not to fear as we continue to do the best we can to safeguard our borders and arrest any case that may be reported."

"Surveillance at all key entry points has been enhanced to ensure that no cases from outside are transferred into the country," Shikanga said.

Early this year, Ebola hit the headlines after claiming lives in Guinea and Liberia. Passengers were compelled to fill a mandatory form, detailing their medical history and were further subjected to medical tests looking for any symptoms of the disease.

The World Health Organisation defines Ebola as a viral haemorrhagic fever and one of the most virulent viral diseases known to humankind, whose predominant treatment is general supportive therapy.

The virus, which is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and parts of infected persons, has already killed 660 people across West Africa.

Some patients have also contracted the disease in the past by getting in contact with sick or dead infected wild animals.

Togo has been listed among countries that are most at risk of recording cases of the deadly disease due to its proximity to the western states currently under attack.

The closest Ebola has hit the East African region was Uganda in 2012, where scores, including a health worker, succumbed.

"We are screening all passengers from West Africa at the airports and compelling them to explain their past destination routes," Shikanga said.

The rising death toll from the disease's outbreak continues to spark fear across the larger African region, as its mode of contraction is simply being in contact with an infected patient.

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