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Kenya on high alert following three reported Ebola cases in Uganda

The Ministry of Health has issued an alert saying that it is adequately equipped to prevent any influx of Ebola into the country, following one death linked to the disease in Uganda on Tuesday.

A statement from the Health Ministry said an alert had been issued to all health workers across the country.

“The purpose of the alert is to inform health staff of the outbreak (in Uganda) and request them to enhance surveillance measures,” the statement issued late Wednesday said.

Other measures put in place is the coordination of preparedness and response, screening of incoming passengers and travelers as well as Prepositioning of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).

“The ministry remains committed to ensuring that relevant surveillance measures are in place to safeguard the health of all Kenyans,” it added.

The World Health Organization said Wednesday it will hold an emergency meeting in Kampala Friday over the new outbreak, after the death of boy in the first spread of a deadly outbreak in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, two more cases have been detected and confirmed.

The two are the grandmother and the three-year-old younger brother of the deceased boy–according to the country’s Health Minister Ruth Aceng.

The two family members tested positive for the virus after a visit to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo where more than 2,000 cases of the highly contagious virus have been registered.

“Two more samples were sent to UVRI (Uganda Virus Research Institute) and have tested positive. We, therefore, have three confirmed cases of Ebola in Uganda,” the WHO Uganda posted on its Twitter account, citing a briefing from Ugandan Health Minister Ruth Aceng in Kasese in the country’s west.

The World Health Organization said Wednesday that a key emergency committee would meet on Friday to determine whether to declare the outbreak “a public health emergency of international concern,” a major shift in mobilisation against the disease, it said.

The death of the boy Wednesday marked the first known cross-border spread in an epidemic that began in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) last August. More than 2,000 cases have been recorded there, around two-thirds of them fatal.

Uganda’s health ministry said on Tuesday that a woman of Congolese origin, who is married to a Ugandan, had gone to the DRC with her mother, two children and one other family member to take care of her father, who later died of Ebola.

Upon their return to Uganda, the five-year-old boy was vomiting blood and taken to hospital, and lab tests revealed he had contracted the haemorrhagic virus.

The family were quarantined, Aceng said.

Blood tests later confirmed the boy’s three-year-old brother and 50-year-old grandmother also had Ebola.
“We have three cases of Ebola confirmed. Unfortunately, we lost the boy who was first tested and was found positive,” Aceng said.

Eight other people in contact with the family had been tracked down and were being monitored.

They, and frontline health workers, would be vaccinated Friday with a new drug designed to protect them against the virus.
While they were in the DRC, the family were identified as having been in contact with an Ebola patient and placed under quarantine, Congolese Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga said.

But they left the isolation ward and crossed into Uganda, he added.

“As soon as they crossed, we contacted the Ugandan authorities,” he told AFP in an interview Wednesday.

East Africa has been on high alert since the outbreak was declared in the eastern DRC provinces of North Kivu and Ituri last August.

According to the WHO, Uganda has vaccinated nearly 4,700 health workers in 165 facilities.

Uganda has experienced several outbreaks in the past, most recently in 2012, while in 2000 more than 200 people died in an outbreak in the north of the country.

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