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World Health Organization help east Africans respond to 'Ebola'

by Naftali Mwaura NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) is co-ordinating with east African governments to contain Ebola, officials said on Friday.

Solid interventions are already in place to prevent the spread of Ebola from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to neighboring countries, said Julius Wekesa, manager in charge of outbreaks and crisis response at WHO regional office for east and southern Africa.

"The Ebola outbreak that started 10 months ago in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a risk to neighboring countries, but we are coordinating with governments to raise levels of preparedness," Wekesa told reporters in Nairobi.

He said the greater east African region has been on high alert since an Ebola outbreak was reported in the eastern parts of the DRC in August 2018.

Latest statistics from the WHO indicate that more than 2,000 cases and about 1,300 deaths have been recorded as the highly contagious hemorrhagic fever spread in eastern DRC.

Wekesa said that the spread of Ebola to Uganda, where a 50-year-old woman and her five-year-old grandson succumbed to the disease this week, has informed that enhanced coordination with regional governments are needed.

"As for now, we are helping countries in the region prepare adequately for the Ebola outbreak," he said.

"There have been regular meetings focusing on enhanced vigilance at ports of entry."

"There has also been enhanced coordination on surveillance, contact tracing, public awareness and improvement of diagnostic capacity," Wekesa added.

Simulation exercises along the Kenya-Tanzania border have already started to boost the capacity of custom officials to detect Ebola virus among travelers, he said.

"Over 200 participants from Kenya, Tanzania and across the region are participating in the simulation exercise to enable them detect Ebola symptoms on travelers," Wekesa said.

Richard Banda, a medical officer at the WHO Kenyan office, said enhanced cross-border screening and public awareness is key to preventing the spread of Ebola in the greater eastern African region.


Kenya to screen all Kisumu airport passengers for Ebola virus infection

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya will begin screening all passengers from an airport in the western Kisumu county, which borders Uganda, for Ebola, the government said on Monday.

The ministry of health said that passengers departing from Kisumu to Nairobi’s Wilson Airport and Mombasa International Airport will be required to fill the Ebola Virus Traveler Surveillance form.

"Following the confirmation of Ebola cases in Uganda, the ministry of health has directed the port health officers at the points of entry to subject all travelers from Kisumu International Airport to reverse screening. The reason being Kisumu County borders Uganda," said the ministry of health in a statement.

Already, a 36-year-old female who traveled from Kenya-Uganda border presented herself on Monday, to a health facility in Kericho County that is located about 263 km northwest of the capital Nairobi, after experiencing symptoms of headache, fever and vomiting but health authorities said that she does not meet the case definition of Ebola.

The government plans to screen the passengers using automated thermal scanners and hand-held thermo guns at the major airports and other points of entry.

Facilities for isolation of suspected cases, case management and infection and prevention and control also exist at the Kenyatta National Hospital and major airports.

The ministry of health has also pre-positioned personal protective equipment including pharmaceutical and hygiene supplies at all points of entry.

Kenya intensifies vigilance amid suspected Ebola case

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya has intensified surveillance to prevent spread of Ebola as a suspected case is reported in Kericho County that is located about 260 km northwest of the capital Nairobi.

Kericho County government said on Monday that a patient with Ebola-like symptoms was received by the main referral hospital on Sunday evening and was being monitored closely by health officers.

"The county department of health services is monitoring this potential case very closely and is working with the national government to ensure that all essential procedures are followed to protect public health and safety," said the statement from Kericho County’s chief public relations officer Timothy Kemei.

He said the county’s disease surveillance team has taken drastic measures to ensure there was minimal contact between the suspected Ebola patient, health workers and members of the public.

"This patient has been placed in isolation and blood samples sent to the Kenya Medical Research Institute in Nairobi for further analysis," said Kemei adding that preliminary test results are expected to be already within 12 hours to 24 hours.

He clarified that the symptoms exhibited by the patient could be indicative of other diseases that mimic Ebola, hence the need for thorough diagnosis.

Kenya has been on high alert since last week when a five-year-old boy and his grandmother from neighboring Uganda succumbed to Ebola after a brief visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where there is an outbreak.

Kenya’s Ministry of Health said in a statement that surveillance had been intensified at ports of entry to prevent spread of Ebola into the country.

"We have established Ebola Rapid Response Team comprising of medical specialists in disease control and laboratory scientists who are trained in investigation and testing for Ebola virus disease," said the ministry.

Statistics from the World Health Organization indicate that more than 2,000 people have been infected with Ebola and about 1,400 have succumbed to the highly contagious hemorrhagic fever since it broke out in the DRC in August 2018.

World Health Organization chief expresses optimism over declining
trends of Ebola in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has expressed optimism over the declining trends of Ebola in two major epicenters in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In a joint WHO and Uganda ministry of health statement issued here on Monday, Tedros said there is a seemingly declining trend in Butembo and Katwa.

"There appears to be a decline in Butembo and Katwa areas. However, in my discussions with my colleagues, we agreed to be very careful with optimism," Tedros said, noting that the Ebola situation in DRC has been unpredictable with up and down trends.

The WHO chief said Mabalako where the Ebola outbreak was first confirmed in August 2018 has once again become a hot bed of new infections.

Uganda last week announced an Ebola outbreak after three people tested positive of the disease.

"From our side, I would like to pledge that we will continue mobilizing global and regional support to control this outbreak as soon as possible. It is not clean until the outbreak in DRC is finished," said Tedros while on a visit to Uganda to assess the Ebola response efforts.

The global health body on Friday said the ongoing Ebola outbreak in DRC has not turned into a public health emergency of international concern, despite rising cases of infection for the past weeks.

Democratic Republic of Congo Ebola outbreak 'not considered health
emergency of international concern' says World Health Organization

GENEVA (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) expressed deep concern on Friday about the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but still did not consider it a health emergency of international concern.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus convened a meeting on Friday of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for the Ebola outbreak in the DRC, which concluded that the disease does not meet all criteria for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

It was the third meeting of the committee on this outbreak, after two previous ones in mid-April and October last year.

The committee expressed its deep concern about the ongoing Ebola outbreak, which, despite some positive epidemiological trends, shows that the extension and reinfection in areas like Mabalako presents challenges around community acceptance and security.

n addition, the response continues to be hampered by a lack of adequate funding and strained human resources.

Earlier on Thursday, the DRC’s neighbor Uganda said that it had registered new Ebola deaths.

A five-year-old boy and his grandmother, both tested Ebola positive, died on Tuesday night and on Wednesday respectively.

The Ebola outbreak in Uganda was confirmed on Tuesday.

The cluster of cases in Uganda is not unexpected, the WHO committee said Friday, adding that the rapid response and initial containment is a testament to the importance of preparedness in neighboring countries.

The committee commends the communication and collaboration between the DRC and Uganda.

The WHO held that though the outbreak is a health emergency in the DRC and the region, but does not meet all the three criteria for a PHEIC, which specify that the health event should be "serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected; carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border; and may require immediate international action."

While urging the DRC to continue to improve and sustain cross-border screening of Ebola cases, the committee also strongly recommends that at-risk countries improve their preparedness for detecting and managing exported cases, as Uganda has done.

Meanwhile, the committee has strongly advised to strengthen community awareness, engagement, and participation, especially in border communities where mobility is highly likely and community engagement needs to be more sharply targeted to identify the populations most at risk.


Uganda registers second Ebola death: official

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- Uganda has registered a second Ebola death after the outbreak was declared late on Tuesday, Uganda’s Ministry of Health said on Thursday.

The patients were from a family of six who traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where an Ebola outbreak had occured, to care for a relative who later died of Ebola.

A five-year-old boy and his grandmother tested positive for the virus after the family returned to Uganda.

The boy died on Tuesday night, the first fatality in the country since the outbreak in neighboring DRC.

The grandmother died on Wednesday at Bwera Hospital in the western district of Kasese town in western Uganda, said the ministry’s spokesperson, Emmanuel Ainebyoona, in a statement.

"It’s unfortunate that we (have) lost the grandmother to the first confirmed case of Ebola, the five-year-old boy.

The grandmother was among those in the Ebola Treatment Unit at Bwera Hospital," said the spokesperson.

The Ebola outbreak in Uganda was confirmed on Tuesday.

The last outbreak in the country was in 2012, which left over 20 people dead.

Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and World
Health Organization experts meet over Ebola outbreak

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and World Health Organization (WHO) experts on Wednesday met in the western district of Kasese to assess the Ebola outbreak after the first case in the east African country died.

Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s minister for health, told Xinhua by telephone that government officials and health experts are meeting to share information on how to tackle and stop the spread of the deadly virus.

"We are in Kasese for a meeting.

"We have a team from DRC who are joining us.

"It’s a very big meeting to address the current Ebola outbreak in Uganda," said Aceng.

The meeting came after Uganda’s ministry of health on Wednesday announced that the first case of Ebola in the country, a five-year old boy, succumbed to the highly infectious disease at Bwera Hospital.

Two other cases, relatives of the deceased, have also been confirmed.

The Ebola outbreak in Uganda was confirmed on Tuesday.

The disease last broke out in the country in 2012, leaving over 20 people dead.

World Health Organization ships 3,500 doses of Ebola vaccines to Uganda

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday announced that it is shipping 3,500 doses of Ebola vaccines for ring vaccination in Uganda after the country recorded its first case of the deadly hemorrhagic fever.

Annet Kisakye, WHO Immunization Focal person, told Xinhua by telephone that a total of 400 experimental Ebola vaccines have arrived in the east African country for ring vaccination of contacts and health workers at risk.

"The 3,100 or so vaccines are going to be airlifted into the country within the next 48 to 72 hours," said Kisakye.

"We have teams on the ground moving to identify and trace the contacts to create a ring for vaccination," she said.

Uganda’s ministry of health and WHO will on Friday launch the exercise in the western district of Kasese where the outbreak has been confirmed.

Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s minister of health, on Wednesday said the first case of Ebola in the country, a five-year old boy, died at Bwera Hospital and two other cases have been confirmed.

The Ebola outbreak in Uganda was confirmed on Tuesday.

It once broke out in Uganda in 2012, leaving about 20 people dead.

Ebola-hit Democratic Republic of Congo urges
Uganda to manage cross-border movement

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- Health workers in the Ebola-hit eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have urged Uganda to control cross-border movement to contain the outbreak of the disease.

Uganda’s Ministry of Health said here late on Tuesday that the health workers on the DRC side of the border have asked that the issue of frequent border crossings by people who have had contact with Ebola victims be addressed.

As first reported by DRC health officials, Uganda’s Ebola index case was a five-year-old boy who had traveled back from the Ebola-hit eastern part of the DRC where he had gone with his mother to nurse a relative who had succumbed to Ebola.

The family has been put in an isolation unit and samples have been taken from two other members for Ebola testing, according to the ministry.

"The same night the family entered Uganda, the teams from (the) DRC alerted us of the presence of contacts of a deceased Ebola case who had crossed into Uganda and provided their names and telephone contacts," the ministry said.

Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s health minister, announced the outbreak on Tuesday, saying the country has beefed up border surveillance.

"The ministry re-echoes its call on the general public to cooperate with the immigration, health and security officials to ensure effective screening at all entry points to prevent the spread of Ebola to other parts of the country," Aceng said.

She said a rapid response team of experts from the ministry, World Health Organization (WHO) and Center for Disease Control is in the border district of Kasese, in the western region of Uganda, to support teams there in contact tracing and case management.

The outbreak in Uganda comes after 10 months of preparedness, the minister added.

According to the WHO, Uganda has vaccinated nearly 4,700 health workers in 165 health facilities, disease monitoring has been intensified and health workers have been trained to recognize symptoms of the disease.

Ebola last broke out in Uganda in 2012, leaving over 20 people dead.

Ebola is a highly infectious disease spread through body contact with an infected person.

Its symptoms include high fever, bleeding, diarrhea and red eyes, among others, according to the WHO.

Ebola outbreak in DR Congo remains major threat to East Africa: WHO

DAR ES SALAAM Tanzania (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains a major threat to the health and socio-economic wellbeing of the people of East Africa.

Tigest Ketsela Mengestu, WHO Country Representative for Tanzania, urged the East African Community (EAC) region to continue engaging in national and regional contingency plans needed to strengthen prevention, response and mitigation of health security risks.

She said the Ebola virus outbreak in the DRC has so far infected over 1,900 people and caused more than 1,300 deaths.

She was speaking at Namanga on the Tanzania-Kenya border during the official opening of a large-scale cross-border field simulation exercise, a fictitious outbreak of rift valley fever.

"The regional EAC cross-border field simulation exercise is a unique opportunity to test our collective public health preparedness and response capacities, clarify roles and responsibilities between different sectors and agencies and learn from each other," she said.

Mengestu added that the exercise will help the EAC countries to identify weaknesses and areas for further improvements in their response system and will equally help them identify the strengths needed to be sustained.

Ummy Mwalimu, Tanzania’s Minister for Health, said cross-border field simulations will help to assess pandemic preparedness status and to identify existing gaps that compromised their efficiency in prevention, response and mitigation.

Mwalimu said the field simulation exercise was being convened at time when the Ebola epidemic in the DRC stood at the threshold of EAC and presented a major challenge to the health and socio-economic wellbeing of the people of East Africa.

"The outcome of the field simulation exercise will allow us to facilitate practical corrective actions at all levels," said the minister.

She said the Ebola virus has always been a stumbling block to human progress and it continued to foment massive loss of lives and livelihoods and disrupted economic and social lives across the world.

Kenya issues alert on Ebola virus disease

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya on Wednesday issued a health alert notice following an Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in the neighboring Uganda.

Sicily Kariuki, cabinet secretary for health, said that Kenya has put all its personnel on high alert ready to tackle any outbreak of the disease.

"It is true that Ebola case has been reported in Kasese, western Uganda and we have enhanced our surveillance in readiness for the eventuality," Kariuki told journalists.

She noted that the ministry’s multi-agency Ebola preparedness and response committee is coordinating preparedness and response measures in the event of an outbreak.

"We have established response teams comprising of medical specialists in disease control and laboratory scientists who are trained in investigations and testing for EVD.

The official disclosed that the government has started screening all incoming visitors from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda and other neighboring countries using automated thermo-scanners and hand held thermo guns at major airport and other port of entry.

Kenya is reacting following an EVD reported case in Uganda where a five-year-old child is isolated after he reportedly traveled from DRC with his mother and arrived in Uganda on Monday this week.

Between 2014 and 2016, Kenyans experts responded to EVD outbreak in West Africa where they participated in the management of cases in the region.

Tanzania at high risk of Ebola outbreak as two killed in Uganda: minister

DAR ES SALAAM Tanzania (Xinhua) -- Tanzanian Minister for Health Ummy Mwalimu warned on Saturday that the east African nation was at high risk of an outbreak of the Ebola after the virus killed at least two people in neighboring Uganda.

Following the reported outbreak of Ebola in Uganda, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with Mwanza regional authorities have deployed health staff to all entry points with Uganda, including those along Lake Victoria, to monitor people entering the country, said Mwalimu.

Uganda’s health ministry said on Thursday that the second person infected with the Ebola virus has died after a family exposed to the disease quietly crossed the border from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

"Tanzania is at high risk of the Ebola virus outbreak and we are doing all we can to respond to the outbreak," said Mwalimu in an interview with Xinhua from Mwanza on the shores of Lake Victoria.

She said she has ordered relevant authorities to fix Ebola scanning machines at Mwanza Airport, the country’s second largest airport, in three days’ time.

Seneth Lyatuu, Mwanza Airport Acting Manager, had told the minister that the airport which received travelers from the DRC and Uganda has only two old and dilapidated scanners for screening Ebola.

"We are receiving passengers from Uganda and DRC where there is Ebola outbreak so we need modern scanners if we are to control Ebola outbreak in the country," said Lyatuu.

On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the Ebola outbreak in the DRC does not qualify as an international threat, despite the spread of the virus to neighboring Uganda carried by an infected family.

Ebola spreads among humans through close contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person.

The current outbreak is the worst on record after an epidemic that struck mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone between 2014 and 2016, leaving more than 11,300 people dead.

South Sudan seeks 12 mln USD to impede Ebola threat after outbreak in Uganda

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan on Thursday appealed for urgent humanitarian assistance of 12 million U.S. dollars to enhance its campaign against Ebola after an outbreak of the deadly viral disease was reported in neighboring Uganda.

Riek Gai Kok, minister for health, said the confirmation of Ebola in Uganda’s western district of Kasese has created a public health scare and put the young republic at high risk of the hemorrhagic fever disease.

"The confirmed cases in Uganda are sobering reminders that the spread of Ebola virus has no respect for physical borders," Kok told a stakeholders conference in Juba.

"With the outbreak in DRC still uncontained and spreading fast, we need to take urgent steps to protect people in South Sudan from a possible attack and ensure of quick response quickly if the virus invades our country," Kok said.

He spoke at the launch of the country’s updated second national plan on how to stop the disease from gaining a foothold in the country, during which he made the appeal to donors and partners on the need to keep the bug at bay away from the citizens of South Sudan.

He said the new plan will build on achievements from the previous period by identifying gaps and prioritize activities for the next six months, adding that the UN agencies and partners have been working collectively since August 2018 on prevention and preparedness.

He noted that the strategy includes 72-hour outbreak response and containment plan and vaccine readiness at the 25 screening sites established at border entry points.

Olushayo Olu, WHO Representative for South Sudan said since the country launched vaccination of the frontline workers in January, a total of 2,793 healthcare and forefront workers across the nation have been vaccinated against the virus.

"The cost of managing a fully-fledged outbreak is unimaginable compared to prevention and would include immense human suffering, long-term economic damage, and further depletion of an already weak healthcare system.

"We cannot allow it to happen," he said.

The highly contagious virus’ symptoms are manifested by fever, vomiting, diarrhea, generalized pain and in many cases internal and external bleeding and can cause death in a matter of hours.

WHO says no need for travel advisories to Uganda after Ebola outbreak

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday said there is no need to issue travel advisories to Uganda after the east African country registered an Ebola case on Tuesday.

The global health body’s office here in a tweet said there are no restrictions to movements and business in the country.

It said the country’s ministry of health has created awareness in the country and in the community in Kasese where the first case has been registered.

"This should enable people to protect themselves. Response teams are in the field and the outbreak in Kasese will be contained," WHO said.

Uganda’s ministry of health on Tuesday announced that Ebola had broken out in the country after tests from a five year old boy in Kasese district neighboring Ebola-hit eastern Democratic Republic of Congo turned positive.

The child is under care and receiving supportive treatment at Bwera Ebola Treatment Unit, according to WHO.

Uganda assures tourists of safety despite Ebola outbreak

KAMPALA (Xinhua) -- Uganda has assured tourists that there is no cause for fear following the Ebola outbreak in the east African country.

Godfrey Kiwanda, minister of state for tourism told Xinhua in an interview on Wednesday that the index case in the western district of Kasese is isolated and that all the family members and relatives have been traced.

"The country is safe.

"There is no cause for alarm or even (to) issue travel advisories.

"Our tourists and other guests are welcome to Uganda and we can assure them of safety," he said.

"Whenever such cases arise, we ensure that they are dealt with immediately.

"We have also been able to trace all the contacts including the parents and other relatives.

"They are under surveillance by the health ministry," the minister added.

He said the country has capacity to contain the outbreak.

Uganda’s ministry of health on Tuesday announced that Ebola had broken out in Kasese after tests from a five-year old boy turned positive.

The boy had traveled back from Ebola-hit eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where he had gone with his mother to nurse a relative who had succumbed to Ebola.

Tour operators in the country have expressed concern that they may suffer losses if tourists cancel their travels following the outbreak.

Ebola last broke out in Uganda in 2012, leaving over 20 people dead.



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