Kenya is Ebola free, experts say

June 11, 2011 1:12 pm

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 11- The government now says that the Ebola threat that faced the country, after an outbreak of the deadly virus was confirmed in Uganda has been contained and that Kenyans are safe from contracting it.

This followed reports that a 12-year-old girl had succumbed to the disease on May 6 in a town 35 kilometres north of the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

While speaking to Capital News Public Health and Sanitation Director Shahnaaz Sharif said that the appropriate precautionary measures had been taken to ensure that the virus did not spread into Kenya.

He noted that 23 close contacts of the deceased had been put in isolation by the Ugandan authorities to ensure that they were clean. 

“The 23 individuals were also tested and fortunately the results came out negative so they were released to the general public,” he explained.

“When we were informed of this we made sure that all our health workers along the border were on the look out for anyone with features of the Ebola haemorrhagic fever to ensure that it was contained,” he said.

Dr Sharif also noted that the strain of the Ebola virus that had been confirmed in Uganda was particularly severe and had a high death rate.

He further observed that Uganda would be declared Ebola free by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) together with the World Health Organisation (WHO) on June 16 as proof that the illness had been contained.

“The girl succumbed to the Sudan strain which is very virulent. The last time Uganda had an outbreak it was not as severe and the mortality was not high. But with the Sudan strain the mortality rates are much higher,” he explained.

The Public Health Director also disputed claims that there was an outbreak of yellow fever in some parts of Rift Valley saying those reports were misleading.

He explained that only one case tested positive for yellow fever because the virus had been introduced to his body when he was being immunised. Samples of the patient’s blood work were also taken to the Kenya Medical Research Institute for further tests and turned out negative.

“These rumours have been creating a lot of anxiety among people. The first cases that were reported were from the Moi Teaching and Referral hospital and they turned to be malaria and poisoning,” he said.

“We have been yellow fever free for the last 10 years; someone just assumed it was yellow fever without even testing,” he added.

Dr Sharif also said that Kenya would be breaching international laws if it did not report such an outbreak to the WHO and CDC. All countries are required to report any international health threats to these bodies or face sanctions.

Diseases like Ebola, Yellow Fever and Marburg Fever are considered serious threats to human populations and any outbreak should be immediately reported. Baringo has also been listed as an area prone to outbreaks of yellow fever.

Dr Sharif added that Kenya had enough capacity to handle any outbreak of the disease. He also said that the government would continue immunising the masses in Baringo and its environs to ensure there were no outbreaks.

“Uptake has been quite good and we have managed to reach about 80 percent of the people in these areas. The last campaign we had in Rift Valley was in 2002 and we immunised everyone but just to be on the safe side we will embark on another massive campaign next year,” he said.

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