WHO helping east African states respond to Ebola

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Desy Shabani, a psycho-social assistant, talks to suspected Ebola patients at an Ebola treatment centre in Butembo, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, March 27, 2019. Picture taken March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Desy Shabani, a psycho-social assistant, talks to suspected Ebola patients at an Ebola treatment centre in Butembo, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, March 27, 2019. Picture taken March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

The World Health Organization (WHO) is coordinating with east African governments to contain Ebola, officials said on Friday.

Solid interventions are already in place to prevent the spread of Ebola from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to neighboring countries, said Julius Wekesa, manager in charge of outbreaks and crisis response at WHO regional office for east and southern Africa.

“The Ebola outbreak that started 10 months ago in the DRC is a risk to neighboring countries, but we are coordinating with governments to raise levels of preparedness,” Wekesa told reporters in Nairobi.

He said the greater east African region has been on high alert since an Ebola outbreak was reported in the eastern parts of the DRC in August 2018.

Latest statistics from the WHO indicate that more than 2,000 cases and about 1,300 deaths have been recorded as the highly contagious hemorrhagic fever spread in eastern DRC.

Wekesa said that the spread of Ebola to Uganda, where a 50-year-old woman and her five-year-old grandson succumbed to the disease this week, has informed that enhanced coordination with regional governments are needed.

“As for now, we are helping countries in the region prepare adequately for the Ebola outbreak,” he said. “There have been regular meetings focusing on enhanced vigilance at ports of entry.”

“There has also been enhanced coordination on surveillance, contact tracing, public awareness and improvement of diagnostic capacity,” Wekesa added.

Simulation exercises along the Kenya-Tanzania border have already started to boost the capacity of custom officials to detect Ebola virus among travelers, he said.

“Over 200 participants from Kenya, Tanzania and across the region are participating in the simulation exercise to enable them detect Ebola symptoms on travelers,” Wekesa said.

Richard Banda, a medical officer at the WHO Kenyan office, said enhanced cross-border screening and public awareness is key to preventing the spread of Ebola in the greater eastern African region.

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