East African states take stringent measures to remain Ebola-free - CNBC Africa

East African states take stringent measures to remain Ebola-free

East Africa

by Elayne Wangalwa 0

East Africa is on high alert for Ebola since the WHO ranked Kenya a high risk area for transmission of the virus. PHOTO: Reuters

The World Health Organisation (WHO) classified Kenya as a precarious country for the spread of the Ebola virus disease which is affecting West African states due to heavy human traffic flow as the country is East Africa’s main transit point for travellers to and from West Africa.

The deadly virus has killed at least 1,145 people in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone with more than 2,100 confirmed and suspected cases reported in the four states.

KENYA TIGHTENS FIGHT AGAINST EBOLA

With this issues on hand, East African states are taking precautionary measures to guarantee a limited spread of the Ebola virus. In Kenya, a task force of public experts and other stakeholders has been formed to assess the outbreak. The nation’s health ministry has also raised the cost of fighting the Ebola epidemic to 670.9 million Kenyan shillings from the 533 million Kenyan shillings it had requested the country's treasury. The money will go towards the purchase of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical supplies, training and orientation for medical personnel.

Furthermore, Kenya’s health Cabinet Secretary, James Macharia said the country would close its borders to travellers from the hardest-hit countries affected by the deadly virus -Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

(READ MORE: African airlines take precautions against Ebola)

According to Doctor Victor Ngani, chairman at Kenya Medical Union, Kenya still has to do a lot more to ensure the Ebola virus does not penetrate into the country.

“The best hope for Kenya is actually to prevent Ebola from being spread into our country [Kenya] rather than dealing with one that would arise because if we witnessed a single case given our health care system right now, it may be catastrophic. We do not have sufficient resources on the ground in terms of human resources and facilities,” said Ngani.

UGANDA’S ENCOUNTERS WITH EBOLA

In Uganda, where the country has been affected by Ebola on several occasions, the government has intensified campaigns to educate the public on the virus and how to manage an outbreak in the country by giving out pamphlets and putting up posters.

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“In Uganda, every week, we are alerting the population. We give an update on the status of Ebola in West Africa and still remind people to be alert, to be vigilant if they see someone who has a fever, someone who has onset of bleeding tendencies, then they should report to the nearest health facility,” Anthony Mbonyi, an official with Uganda's Ministry of Health said.

The virus first appeared in Uganda in the year 2000. The deadly virus infected 425 people, killing more than half of them in the north part of the country. In 2007, the country suffered yet another blow in Bundibugyo District, a remote region in western Uganda. About 149 people were reported to have contracted the virus and 37 died. This was the first reported occurrence of a new strain. Uganda last suffered an Ebola outbreak in 2012 in Kibaale district killing 17 people, including a health worker. Five survived the haemorrhagic fever.

The Ugandan government recently intensified screening of travellers coming into the country at its main airport and other border posts. The screening specifically targets people who have been to any of the affected countries in the last 21 days. The government has also advised its citizens to travel to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, which have been the hardest-hit by the Ebola epidemic only when necessary.

(WATCH VIDEO: Uganda Ebola survivor speaks out on latest virus)

“When a passenger comes we ask questions, have you been to West Africa, have you been to Kenya, did you get in touch with anyone who was infected with Ebola,” Mbonyi said.

Last week the Ugandan health ministry sent 20 of its health experts with specialisations in epidemiology, case management, community education and psychosocial support to Sierra Leone and Liberia to help curb the spread of the disease.

THE EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY STANDS TOGETHER AGAINST EBOLA

Meanwhile, the Tanzanian Health Ministry has advised citizens to postpone all travel to Ebola affected countries. The country has also deployed a team of health workers at entry points in one of its major administrative cities, Arusha, as preventive measures against the deadly Ebola virus. The Tanzanian government has also provided equipment for the health workers and set up an isolation ward for patients in case of an Ebola breakout.

In Rwanda, the Ministry of Health said that its observation and emergency management systems were in place. The country has also trained health workers across the country. Last week a suspected case of Ebola in the country tested negative. A German man put in isolation with Ebola-like symptoms.

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