Rwanda: Health Minister Refutes Claims Congolese Ebola Victim Passed Through Rwanda

A mother holds her child in the zone where people suspected of being infected by Ebola are held in quarantine at the Ebola Transition Center in Beni, North Kivu, January 18, 2019.

The Minister for Health, Dr Diane Gashumba, has refuted claims that a Congolese fishmonger who died of Ebola a few days ago might have entered Rwanda infected with the virus.

According to the World Health Organisation, the victim is said to have travelled across the border to Uganda on July 11 to sell fish at Mpondwe market from where she had four vomiting incidents before returning to Congo and died shortly after.

But some reports suggested yesterday that the woman "probably carried the virus from Congo into both Rwanda and Uganda."

However, Dr Gashumba has dismissed the claim.

Speaking at an event in Kigali yesterday, the minister described as "fake news" the reports and questioned the motive.

"We want to tell you that this is fake news. But we ask you to continue being vigilant, maintain hygiene, and in case of any scare, call 110, our toll free line for reporting information concerning the epidemic," she said.

Rwanda has never recorded any Ebola case.

At least 1,676 people have died from the virus since the current outbreak started in DR Congo in August 2018 - more than two thirds of those who had contracted the virus.

According to WHO, the incubation period of Ebola (the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms) is from 2-21 days. A person infected with Ebola cannot spread the disease until they develop symptoms.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the Ebola crisis in the DR Congo a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), urging for more concerted international effort to contain the virus.

The PHEIC is a formal declaration by the UN agency in charge of world health matters of an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease, and such a declaration has traditionally unlocked more resources to fight disease.

It is the highest level of alarm WHO can sound and has only been used four times previously.

But symptoms can be sudden. They include fever, severe weakness, muscle pain, headache, and sore throat. These are generally followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney, and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (for example, oozing from the gums, or blood in the stools).

Rwanda has in recent past stepped up efforts to prevent Ebola from spreading to the country, including scaling up screenings at all points of entry, surveillance, vaccinating frontline workers including health and immigration officers, public sensitisation, among other measures.

The Government has also advised the public to be more vigilant by observing the following tips:

· Avoid unnecessary travels to areas affected by an Ebola outbreak.

· Immediately report to the nearest screening station if you are coming from an Ebola affected area.

· Report any suspected case of Ebola via the Ministry toll free number 114, Police on 112, Community Health Workers or to any nearest health facility.

· In case you know someone who is from an Ebola-affected area, immediately report to the Police on 112, to the Ministry of Health on 114, to the nearest local authorities or Community Health Workers.

· Avoid contact with blood and body fluids, items that may have come in contact with an infected person's blood or body fluids.

· Avoid contact with body of an Ebola victim and/or meat from an unknown source.

· Advise every person who has been in contact with a patient with Ebola symptoms or who attended a burial ceremony of a known case of Ebola to immediately report to the nearest health facility for urgent medical attention.

- Always wash hands with soap and clean water.

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