Kenya + 2 more

Kenya: Ugandans screened for Ebola

NAIROBI, 24 November (IRIN) - Fifty Ugandans are being held in a Nairobi hotel undergoing screening for possible Ebola fever. Local press reports said the 50, from the Ebola-hit Gulu district of northern Uganda, "slipped" into Nairobi.
"We have not detected any signs of the deadly virus but the monitoring exercise is being carried out just to verify that everything is alright," the permanent secretary in the health ministry, Julius Meme, said. The aim of the exercise was to discover whether any of the Ugandans had interacted with Ebola victims back home in Gulu.

Meanwhile, seven Kenyans detained at a border hospital in Busia for Ebola virus check-ups have been declared free from infection, the Ugandan health ministry announced.

Results of their blood samples tested negative at the World Health Organisation's Ebola screening laboratory unit in Gulu, where the first case of the outbreak was reported in mid-September, Sam Okware, the country's commissioner of community health, said.

A border surveillance team detained and took blood test samples of 11 Kenyan mourners, who had slipped into Uganda for the burial of an Ebola victim, where the disease has affected 331 and killed 115 people. Currently the Ugandan districts of Gulu, Masindi and Mbarara have been affected. A further two suspected cases have been reported in Masindi.

Kenya has intensified border checks on travellers from Uganda. Some 25,000 border residents have been screened for Ebola infection in an attempt to stem a spillover into the country, whose main source of income - tourism - could be jeopardised by an Ebola outbreak.

The Kenyan director of medical services, Dr Richard Muga, said health committees will be set up at border districts to assist medical personnel to monitor the disease and identify people who use unorthodox routes to enter the country.

Human rights lobby groups have not taken kindly to these crossborder checks, saying they are an abuse of human rights.

But the Kenyan government is adamant. "The right to life is a human right and it is the duty of the government to provide that right at whatever cost," Health Services Minister Amukowa Anangwe asserted.

John Munyasia, whose parliamentary constituency borders Uganda, has called on the government to intensify border patrols and checks to prevent Ebola from spreading into Kenya. Awareness campaigns should be conducted to enlighten residents about the dangers of the disease, Munyasia said.

Health experts from the three East African Community (EAC) countries - Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda - are to meet in Arusha, Tanzania, on 30 November to assess the Ebola threat. The Arusha-based Internews press service quoted a senior EAC official, Dr Nyamajeje Weggoro, as saying the meeting will chart out a common strategy on how to combat the disease. "The main thrust is to assess the spread of Ebola in the region and the possible sources of the disease beyond the EAC borders," he said.

The Tanzanian health authorities have reported five suspected cases in the Mwanza, Kagera and Dar es Salaam districts but stressed there was no "conclusive evidence to confirm Ebola". "Tanzania is taking the cases very seriously until it is proved otherwise," the health ministry permanent secretary, Mariam Mwafisi, added.

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