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The East African : Oct 20th 2014
30 The EastAfrican OUTLOOK OCTOBER 18-24,2014 S CI E N C E How Ebola-prepared is East Africa? Failure to screen people for Ebola at border points makes the region vulnerable By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI Special Correspondent strengthen screening services at the airports, border posts and do follow-ups on all passengers arriving from West Africa after screening, medical experts in the region have warned. Thie warning comes shortly af- E ter a new report by the World Bank group that classified Kenya among the 19 countries that could report an Ebola case in the next 30 days, even if the outbreak in West Africa is contained. Reports indicate that key border towns like Busia, Malaba, Isebania and Namanga lack facilities to quarantine and treat patients who cross into the country with Ebolalike symptoms and patients are not thoroughly screened for Ebola. “If cases of the deadly disease are mishandled or not diagnosed early in Kenya, for example, then the other East African nations are also endangered,” said Anthony Mbonye, Uganda’s Commissioner of Health Services “Kenya faces greater risk as it’s the major gateway to West Africa and East African trading blocs.” He said that it is very important to ensure screening at all the border points and airports and do a follow up on passengers coming from West Africa for 21 days (the Ebola incubation period) before declaring them safe. “This is what most health author- ities in our countries are missing to do,” said Prof Mbonye. “Unless a follow up is done there is a big risk of an outbreak.” The weak public health infra- structure, institutions and systems in the East African countries and UPDATE For the past four weeks, about 1,000 new infections a week — including suspected, confirmed and probable cases — have come to light. WHO’s latest projections suggesting the infection rate could reach between 5,000 and 10,000 new cases a week within two months if global efforts to combat the spread of infection are not stepped up. There have been 8,914 cases overall, including the fatal cases, and the WHO says it expects this number to top 9,000 by the end of the week. The medical team panicked, this being a first serious case presenting Ebola like symptoms at the airport.” Kemri’s Victor Ofula Africa as a whole, Prof Mbonye said are a major challenge. “The successful containment of Ebola in Nigeria and Senegal so far is evidence that there is an existing health system capacity and a resolute policy response, which is what James Macharia, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Health at a press conference at JKIA after releasing the body of a passenger who died on arrival at the airport. most countries should emulate,” added Prof Mbonye. Last week, a female passenger from South Sudan died at Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on arrival from Juba. She, however, tested was confirmed tested negative for Ebola, said Cabinet Secretary for Health James Macharia. Health professionals in the coun- try have questioned Kenya’s preparedness to handle an Ebola outbreak after it was reported that the doctors at the airport ran away when the patient started bleeding. “The medical team panicked this being the first serious case presenting Ebola-like symptoms at the airport,” said Victor Ofula at Kenya Medical Research Institute ( Hemorrhagic Fever Laboratory. According to Dr Ofula, the pa- tient’s case was an acute case since she had been bleeding for three days as reported and therefore the Ebola tests were done at Kemriand the results, which turned out negative, were released within five hours. “But if the symptoms had pre- sented beyond four days, the tests could have taken longer, about 10 hours,” he added. He said that even though Kenya stepped up its contingency plan for Ebola preparedness and response with the training of health workers and medical personnel, more needs to be done on the clinical management front. So far, he said Kemri has tested close to 30 Ebola cases which have all turned out negative. All the other four East Afri- can countries and Ethiopia rely on Kemri to conduct Ebola virus tests. A World Bank report released a week ago shows Kenya has a five per cent chance of having to deal with the disease in the next one month if the three worst-affected West African countries fail to contain its spread. The researchers estimate that if the West African epidemic is brought under control, Kenya is likely to report only one Ebola case in the next 30 days. Fo≥ecast fo≥ vi≥al feve≥ wo≥sens as footp≥int widens THE WHO REPORTED sobering new figures Tuesday (October 14) about the Ebola outbreak ravaging West Africa, saying the number of new cases could reach 10,000 per week by December, about 10 times the rate of the past four weeks. While the number of deaths so far is roughly half the number of confirmed, probable or suspected cases, the organisation also said that the mortality rate is closer to 70 per cent. The updated figures were provided by Dr Bruce Aylward, the health organisation’s assistant director general, during a telephone news conference from its Geneva headquarters. He also said that as of Tuesday, the total number of confirmed, probable or suspected Ebola cases over the course of the epidemic had reached 8,914, with 4,447 deaths. The vast majority are in the three most afflicted countries: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Just othe previous Friday, the organisation said that the deaths totalled 4,024 — indicating that hundreds more people have died in a matter of days. Dr Aylward, an infectious diseases special- ist who has just completed a visit to West Africa, said the survival rate was now “30 per cent at most in these countries, “ even as the international campaign to fight it has escalated. The epidemic has continued to expand geo- graphically and now affects more areas than a month ago, including parts of Sierra Leone close to the border with Ivory Coast, he said. He described Ebola as “a high-mortality dis- ease in any circumstance but especially in these countries.” Dr Aylward said the health organisation was particularly focused on isolating 70 per cent of new patients in the next two months — to remove them from situations in which they can pass the disease to others and begin reversing the tide of the Ebola virus. While Dr Aylward acknowledged the recent surge in international pledges to combat Ebola’s spread, he said that without a further escalation in help over the next 60 days, “a lot more people will die.” He also expressed concern about co-ordination among the many medical and charitable groups that are now helping in West Africa. “There’s a lot of actors on the ground, and an awful lot of them are working with Ebola for the first time,” he said. “The challenge right now is making sure all of that adds up to the kind of plan needed to stop this disease.” In another cautionary note, Dr Aylward warned that the ramped-up response could invite complacency and false hope, and that recent signs that Ebola was easing in some areas were misleading. By Rick Gladstone and Nick Cumming Bruce New York Times Woman gets tetanus shot. Pic: File Faecal capsules used to balance bacteria in the gut Capsules containing frozen faecal material may help clear up C. difficile infections, research suggests. Twenty people were given the therapy, using material from volunteers, in an attempt to treat serious diarrhoea caused by Clostridium difficile bugs and 14 of the 20 had their symptoms completely disappear, with no recurrences in the following two months. The study by a team of scientists from America and Israel builds on previous studies showing that faecal transplants may help reset the balance of bacteria in the gut. ast African countries risk an Ebola outbreak unless they BRIEFS Uganda govt declares country Marburg free The government has declared the country Marburg-free as no new case of the fever has been registered in more than a fortnight. According to the state Minister for Primary Healthcare Sarah Opendi, there is no new confirmed case of Marburg since the first that occurred on September 30, involving a health worker who was working at Mengo Hospital. There are five suspects in isolation in three isolation facilities and currently, 149 persons are under observation for possible signs of the virus. Scientists ‘almost’ home on cure for diabetes The hunt for a cure for type 1 diabetes has recently taken a “tremendous step forward,” scientists have said. In their study tests on mice with type 1 diabetes published in the journal Cell, the team at Harvard University showed that lab-made cells could produce insulin and control blood sugar levels for several months. If the beta cells were injected into a person they would still face an immune assault and ultimately be destroyed. Kenya govt dismisses allegations on vaccine Kenya’s government has dismissed allegations made by the country’s Catholic Church that a tetanus vaccine can cause sterility in women. According to Health SecretaryJames Macharia, the vaccine is safe and certified by the World Health Organisation and Unicef. Catholic priests have been telling their congregations to boycott a campaign recently launched to vaccinate women against tetanus saying more tests need to be done on the vaccine.
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