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Kenya on alert over Uganda Ebola

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 6 – Health officials at the Malaba border point were put on high alert following an outbreak of the deadly Ebola disease in neighbouring Uganda.

People crossing the border to Kenya from Uganda are now required to be thoroughly screened to curb a spread of the deadly disease, officials said.

"We are under firm instructions to screen people crossing over the border to Kenya because this is a dangerous disease," Teso district Officer Dr Melsa Lutomia said, adding that they were also "educating people along the border on how to detect the disease and measures they are required to take to curb the spread of the disease."

Last month, tests conducted in Uganda indicated that a 12-year-old girl had died of the deadly Ebola virus in a town about 35 kilometres north of Kampala.

Preliminary tests carried out at the Uganda Virus Research Institute showed that the girl died from the virus on May 6 at Bombo hospital, said Dr Miriam Nanyunja, disease prevention and control officer for the World Health Organisation in Uganda.

Nanyunja said that health officials were currently looking for more cases in the area and planned to set up an isolation unit at Bombo hospital in anticipation of new patients.

Ugandan director general of health services Dr Nathan Mugisha confirmed the preliminary results and said that a taskforce was meeting on Saturday to work out how to deal with any potential outbreak.

"So far it is only preliminary test results and there is a meeting in progress," Mugisha told AFP.

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The rare haemorrhagic disease, named after a small river in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, killed 37 people in western Uganda in 2007 and claimed the lives of at least 170 people in the north of the country in 2000.

In August last year, US scientists said they had cleared a key hurdle in the quest for a drug to treat Ebola, the notorious African virus and feared future weapon of bioterrorism.

A treatment administered to rhesus monkeys within an hour of being infected by the deadliest strain of Ebola was 60 percent effective, and a companion drug was 100-percent effective in shielding cynomolgus monkeys against Ebola\’s cousin, the Marburg virus.

After studying the findings, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given the green light for trials on a small group of human volunteers, they said.

Ebola and Marburg are part of a family of so-called filoviruses, which cause haemorrhagic fever – a disease with mortality rates of up to 90 percent where, in some cases, the patient bleeds to death.

According to the UN\’s World Health Organisation (WHO), about 1,850 cases of Ebola, with some 1,200 deaths, have occurred since 1976.

The virus has a natural reservoir in several species of African fruit bat. Gorillas and other non-human primates are also susceptible to the disease.

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