KAMPALA: The Ministry of Health on Thursday said all people leaving Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are being screened for any signs and symptoms of Ebola, following the outbreak of the deadly disease in the country that has so far claimed 17 lives.
According to Dr Henry Mwebesa, the acting director general at the ministry, all DRC-Uganda border points are under surveillance after Ebola was confirmed in Bikoro Town, 1,945 kilometers from Mpondwe in Kasese District.
“A private medical center within the airport has been equipped to provide counseling and clinical screening of all suspects. A standby ambulance with a driver and relevant protective has been providedby the Civil Aviation Authority and is available twety –four-seven,” Dr Mwebesa said in a statement.
He added that the Ministry has instructed leaders in the districts of Kampala, Wakiso, Kisoro, Kanungu, Kasese, Bundibugyo, Hoima, Bulisa, Nebbi, Arua, Maracha, Koboko, Kibaaleand Kabbala to reactivate the District Task Forces in preparations for any possible outbreak.
It is the ninth time Ebola has been recorded in the DRC, whose eastern Ebola river gave the deadly virus its name when it was discovered there in the 1970s, and the outbreak comes less than a year after one that killed eight people.
Ebola is believed to be spread over long distances by bats, which can host the virus without dying, as they infect other animals with which they share trees, such as monkeys. Ebola often spreads to humans via infected bushmeat.
Before the outbreak was confirmed, local health officials reported 21 patients showing signs of hemorrhagic fever around the village of Ikoko Impenge, near the town of Bikoro. Seventeen of those later died.
After DRC’s previous Ebola flare-up, authorities approved the use of a new experimental vaccine, but in the end did not deploy it owing to logistical challenges and the relatively minor nature of the outbreak.
The worst Ebola epidemic ended in West Africa two years ago after killing more than 11,300 people and infecting about 28,600 across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Despite regular outbreaks every few years, death tolls in the DRC have been significantly lower.