25 May 2017

Tanzania: Ebola Advisory - No Handshakes, Please, You're in Mwanza

AN alert on the deadly Ebola disease is sweeping across Mwanza Region as residents here are cautioned to check the movements of visitors from the DR Congo.

The 'advisory' now making the rounds was issued Mwanza Regional Commissioner (RC) John Mongela yesterday during a stakeholders meeting called strategically to brainstorm and chart out measures the region could in case of an outbreak.

The City of Mwanza and its environs receives many visitors from across the Great Lakes Region, with at least 100 fish traders alone coming into Mwanza every day -invariably all of them from the DRC where four people are reported to have died from Ebola and 37 others infected lately.

Mr Mongela says even though his officials were yet to report any Ebola cases or suspect, the authorities had "reason to start taking precautionary measures due to its proximity with DRC."

"Our region is not spared when it comes to threats of Ebola due to a number of factors ... such as migrations of people from our neighbours in the DRC being the main factor.

And we have been cautioned to exercise great care hence the importance of this meeting," he said. In particular, the RC warns people to desist hugs and handshakes ... the hallmark of exchanging niceties and greetings, saying people should keep away from contact with "someone who is sweating ... Ebola is reported to spread rapidly through sweat, among other means.

He also challenges spiritual leaders to extend messages to their followers at their houses of worships even as he urged local authority leaders to closely check all suspicious movements in the islets and popular fishing destinations.

Presenting a brief on the disease, Mwanza Regional Medical Officer Dr Leonard Shubi said on 12 May, this year the World Health Organization (WHO) reported the Ebola outbreak in DRC's Bas Uele of Likati province - which had killed at least four people by May 20th .

"The DRC has 37 patients while 362 other people related to them are being monitored for emergence medical intervention. That scenario should serve as wake-up call to us here," he said.

The RMO urged the stakeholders from across the region to start public awareness and education campaigns, saying, " ... everyone must be educated ... so we understand all the symptoms of the disease and how best we can avoid it."

Responding to questions raised during his presentation, Dr Subi said all medical facilities should set up special isolation rooms as the authorities prepare leaflets and brochures to heighten public education.

He also allayed fears of the infected people bringing in the disease through the airport, saying the Mwanza Airport was already installed with a Thermo Scanner for an instant screening.

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