17 May 2017

Africa: East Africa On High Alert As Ebola Hits DRC

Photo: Ebola Deeply
(file photo).

Eastern African countries are on high alert following the confirmation of an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The move comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an Ebola outbreak in DRC on Friday, following one positive test in a specialised laboratory in Kinshasa, the country's capital.

Nine suspected cases including three deaths have been reported in DRC since April 22, while six patients are currently hospitalised.

Rwanda and DRC have set up a joint monitoring team that includes doctors and Ebola experts from the WHO and medical charity Doctors Without Borders (known by its French acronym MSF).

Rwanda has also reinstated Ebola screening at its points of entry especially at the two border posts it shares with DRC - Gisenyi-Goma and Cyangugu-Bukavu.

"We are following the situation in DRC closely and we are more than ready to protect our population," Malick Kayumba, Rwanda's Health ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday.

"Rwandans and everyone in Rwanda should avoid travelling to the DRC, especially to that area where Ebola has been confirmed until the situation is clear," he added.

Mr Kayumba said the outbreak is currently confined in a remote area in North DRC and is unlikely to spread widely in the region.

"But we shall continue to share information with Rwandans and ensure that they are safe and know how to protect themselves," he said.

Surveillance of travellers

In Kenya, holding rooms at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi have been re-activated to isolate suspected Ebola virus disease (EVD) cases while awaiting possible transfer to health facilities.

"We have strengthened screening and surveillance of travellers from and through DRC at all points of entry," said director of medical services Jackson Kioko in a statement on Tuesday.

"We wish to assure Kenyans that there is no suspected case of Ebola virus in the country and they should remain vigilant, look out for any such illnesses and report to the nearest health facility without delay for immediate verification and investigation."

The cluster of undiagnosed illness and deaths including haemorrhagic symptoms in Likati Health Zone, Bas Uele Province - North of the DRC, bordering Central African Republic was first reported on April 22.

Following the reports, Rwanda's Health minister Diane Gashumba directed all hospital directors to be on high alert and to activate their rapid response teams.

All persons with travel history from or through the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Rwanda are required to provide a minimum package of information to guide investigations surrounding the Ebola outbreak.

This includes, but is not limited to; personal details, exact location of origin or transit, history of contact with potential Ebola virus disease cases, presence of any suggestive signs and symptoms of the disease.

Similar instructions have also been given in Kenya.

Declaration of contact while in Kenya will also be collected to aid personal risk assessment and daily follow-up for 21 days if they (travellers) will still be residents.

DRC has reported eight Ebola outbreaks since 1976 with the last one occurring in 2014 that was quickly contained and killed 49 people.

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