Tanzania to screen for Ebola after Uganda outbreak

Thursday September 22 2022
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Health deputy minister Godwin Mollel. PHOTO | FILE

By The Citizen Reporter

Dar es Salaam. The government yesterday urged the public to be vigilant against Ebola after neighbouring Uganda reported on Tuesday that one person has died of the disease.

Uganda announced the country’s first fatality from the highly contagious virus since 2019, and declared an outbreak in the central district of Mubende.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement that a 24-year-old man in Mubende had tested positive for “the relatively rare Sudan strain” of the virus.

Health deputy minister Godwin Mollel said the outbreak in Uganda was a concern to Tanzania, whose people interact with Ugandans at border points, airports and ports.

“I call upon all medical officers to provide public education on the disease, monitor it, and undertake investigations in their respective areas,” he said in a statement.

He also asked officials to step up the screening of foreigners who enter Tanzania in order to diagnose any early signs.

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Dr Mollel stressed that there was no case of Ebola in Tanzania, but urged people to take precautions to prevent an outbreak.

Ebola is an often fatal viral haemorrhagic fever. The death rate is typically high, ranging up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the WHO.

First identified in 1976 in the DRC (then Zaire), the virus, whose natural host is the bat, has since set off a series of epidemics in Africa, killing around 15,000 people.

Human transmission is through body fluids, with the main symptoms being fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea.

Outbreaks are difficult to contain, especially in urban environments.

People who are infected do not become contagious until symptoms appear, which is after an incubation period of between two and 21 days.

The worst epidemic in West Africa between 2013 and 2016 killed more than 11,300 alone. The DRC has had more than a dozen epidemics, the deadliest killing 2,280 people in 2020.

There have been seven previous outbreaks of the Sudan strain, including four times in Uganda and thrice in Sudan, the WHO said.

Uganda – which shares a porous border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – has experienced several Ebola outbreaks in the past, most recently in 2019, when at least five people died.