EMERGENCY

Ebola: WHO says Kenya should not block Congo people

Public health specialists meeting in Nairobi yesterday praised the decision to declare outbreak a public health emergency of international concern

In Summary

•By Monday, a total of 2,512 Ebola cases (2,418 confirmed and 94 probable), had been reported in DR Congo.

•A vaccine (rVSV-EBOV) partly developed in Kenya, is currently being used in Congo and is 99 per cent effective.

Health workers have been vaccinating people against Ebola to prevent the spread of the virus. /AGENCIES
Health workers have been vaccinating people against Ebola to prevent the spread of the virus. /AGENCIES

Kenya should not close its borders to people coming from the Ebola-hit Democratic Republic of Congo, the  World Health Organisation says.

WHO said unfair profiling of travellers from the Ebola-hit regions will only worsen the situation and increase the spread of the deadly disease. 

"No country should close its borders or place any restrictions on travel and trade. Such measures are usually implemented out of fear and have no basis in science," WHO said in a statement yesterday.

"They push the movement of people and goods to informal border crossings that are not monitored, thus increasing the chances of the spread of disease," WHO said.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday declared the outbreak a "public health emergency of international concern", a move that may encourage wealthy donor countries to provide more cash.

WHO says they are struggling with a shortfall of Sh5.4 billion to fight the disease in the DRC.

Public health specialists meeting in Nairobi yesterday praised the decision to declare an emergency.

"Currently there is a very high risk that the current Ebola outbreak will soon spread to neighboring countries including Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and Kenya," said Aids Healthcare Foundation Kenya country director Dr Samuel Kinyanjui.

"WHO on 15th July 2019, confirmed that the Ebola outbreak has reached to the Eastern Congo's main city of Goma severely raises the risk of the virus spreading from this border town into Rwanda."

By Monday, a total of 2,512 Ebola cases (2,418 confirmed and 94 probable), had been reported in DR Congo.

Out of this, there were 1,676 deaths (1,582 confirmed, 94 probable), reported from North Kivu and Ituri Provinces, which represented a case fatality rate of 68 per cent, according to WHO. 

 

“The PHEIC declaration is a step in the right direction, but it should have been declared months ago,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein.

“Now, Dr Tedros must act quickly to mobilise the resources from donor countries and mount a robust response. All available vaccines must be fast-tracked for approval so that a large-scale inoculation campaign can begin immediately – an emergency declaration is only effective if it’s followed by swift action.”

A vaccine (rVSV-EBOV) partly developed in Kenya, is currently being used in Congo and is 99 per cent effective.

However, everybody is not vaccinated - only those who come into direct contact with an Ebola patient, and people who come into contact with them.

Currently, Kenya screens travellers at all border and entry points, including those using domestic flights, because of the heightened risk from DR Congo.

“Incoming travellers from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and other countries are undergoing screening using the thermo scanners and hand-held thermo guns at major airports, including Wilson Airport,” the ministry of health says.

A holding room has also been set up at the JKIA for any suspected cases awaiting possible transfer to the Ebola treatment unit at the Kenyatta National Hospital.

The viral disease spreads through contact with bodily fluids, causing haemorrhagic fever with severe vomiting, diarrhoea, and bleeding.

WHO says vaccine will be doubled in 2020.

"The committee...recommends that WHO works with member states and manufacturers to immediately take all measures to increases supplies, including consideration of working with Contract Manufacturing Organizations and transfer of technology," WHO said yesterday.