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The East African : Aug 18th 2014
12 THE STATE OF PREPAREDNESS On high alert, EA governments commit resources to fight killer Ebola Kenya Medical Resea≥ch Institute is se≥ving as ≥efe≥ence labo≥ato≥y fo≥ testing suspected Ebola samples in the ≥egion By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI Special Correspondent E ast African countries are preparing for a possible outbreak of Ebola after the World Health Organisation warned the killer disease could spread to the region as a result of heavy human traffic flow. Kenya — which is considered most at risk of the epidemic owing to the fact that its national airline operates regular flights to the affected countries in West Africa — has secured some 5,000 pieces of protective equipment from WHO to be used in surveillance and treatment, and is seeking more. The kits contain gloves, gumboots, clothing and emergency medicine for treating Ebola patients. These are intravenous fluids or oral rehydration drugs and drugs for treating the high fever. In addition, Kenya’s Ministry of Health has also submitted a budgetary request to Treasury for $5.9 million to help set up adequate response structures. Tanzania announced it has pur- chased 12,750 protective kits, which have been distributed to all border points, and expects more from WHO. It is also importing scanners to be fixed at airports and other entry points for detection of the symptoms of Ebola. The Kenya Medical Research In- stitute (Kemri) in Nairobi, which is currently serving as the reference laboratory for testing all the suspected Ebola samples in the East African region, says it has so far received two samples from two leading hospitals in Nairobi, but none yet from any other EAC country. Results of the two samples are yet to be announced. On the continental level, the Af- rican Union has pledged to give $1 million to help fight the disease that has so far killed more than 1,000 people in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. It is expect- The EastAfrican NEWS AUGUST 16-22,2014 IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT THE DISEASE The incubation period, or the time interval between infection to onset of symptoms, is from two to 21 days. Patients become contagious once they begin to show symptoms. At the development stage of the Ebola virus, patients have inflammation of the eyes (conjunctivitis), abdominal pains and vomiting. The surface of the tongue becomes a brilliant red and eventually sloughs off. It may even be spat out or swallowed. The virus is known to be systemic, which means the infection attacks every tissue and organ of the body, except the skeletal muscles and bones. The virus is characterised by haemorrhaging and blood clotting. It also causes blood clots. These clots tend to get stuck in the blood vessels, which in turn causes the red spots on the skin. The clots also slow down the blood supply to most organs of the body such as the lungs, brain, liver, intestines and kidneys. These organs are severely damaged and eventually stop functioning. Because of the many devastating effects on the body, death may be caused by shock, renal failure or loss of blood. Source: WHO ed to call an Extraordinary Meeting of the Bureau of the 6th Conference of the AU Ministers of Health in September to lobby member states to replenish the African Union Special Emergency Fund for Drought and Famine, which will now also cover public health. In addition, the meeting will call for the WHO-managed African Public Health Emergency Fund to be replenished to support affected countries. According to WHO, Kenya and Ethiopia have been mapped among the high risk countries for a possible Ebola outbreak: “The two countries have major flights flying in and out of the West Africa nations every day and, therefore, there is heavy human traffic flow which can easily lead to the spread of the disease in these countries,” said WHO country representative for Kenya Custodia Mandlhate. The official advised the two coun- tries to enhance their preparedness for prevention, including early detection and response. Some of the world’s major air- lines, including British Airways and Lufthansa, have cancelled flights to the affected countries, but Kenya Airways has said it will not stop flying to the West Africa capitals, but will instead enhance its surveillance of the passengers at the points of entry and exit. “The WHO has not advised us to stop flights from the affected areas,” said Titus Naikuni, Kenya Airways’ outgoing chief executive officer. “We do not see a major risk that warrants stopping operations in the region. This means we will continue with our flights while reviewing the position on a daily basis.” The decision has been criticised by civil society organisations, the Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) and the Parliamentary Human Rights Group. The airline flies 44 times a week to 10 West African cities, including Freetown in Sierra Leone, Monrovia in Liberia and Lagos in Nigeria. The other destinations are Cotonou in Benin, Accra in Ghana, Dakar in Senegal, Yaoundé and Douala in Cameroon, Bamako in Mali and Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire. About 60 per cent of passengers from the West African countries are usually in transit through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. South Korean national carrier Ko- rean Air last week said it would temporarily suspend flights to Nairobi after the WHO said the country was at a high risk of Ebola. Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have also heightened their disease surveillance at their major airports of JKIA, Kilimanjaro and Entebbe respectively. Health officers have been trained and deployed to the airports to test all passengers from West Africa for possible symptoms of Ebola. High fevers, vomiting and dehydrations are the first symptoms experienced by Ebola patients. According to Kenya’s Health Cabi- net Secretary James Macharia, the ministry is jointly working on disease surveillance with Kenya Airways, the Kenya Airports Authority, Kemri and WHO. “This is part of the 10-point strat- egy formulated to deal with Ebola, which also includes temporary holding rooms at JKIA and all the border points and training of the health officers,” said Mr Macharia. The government has set up isola- tion units at Kenyatta National Hospital and Mbagathi Hospital. Kenya’s Director of Medical Serv- ices, Dr Nicholas Muraguri, said the isolation ward at KNH has a capacity of 16 beds, and would be expanded to accommodate 30. In Tanzania, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare Seif Rashid said scanners will be fixed at UN to feed a million people in West Af≥ica By A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT AFP THE UNITED Nations is to step up food aid to reach up to a million people affected by the Ebola outbreak wreaking havoc in West Africa, the World Food Programme said on Friday. With states of emergency and se- vere restrictions on movement imposed in the three worst-hit countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the UN agency is bringing in its own aircraft to transport its personnel. “The restrictions on movement in the most affected areas threaten food security,” WFP spokeswoman Fabienne Pompey said. “Commerce is affected, people cannot get to their fields, and prices rise at the markets so the poorest have trouble feeding themselves.” The WFP is already feeding sev- eral thousand people in the worst affected areas, including the families of victims who have been quar- antined, orphans and old people and hunters hit by the ban on the sale of bushmeat. With several commercial car- riers suspending flights to the region because of the epidemic, she said the agency will start up a special line with an aircraft based in the Guinean capital Conakry to link the capitals of the three countries. She said two helicopters will also be brought in to help staff reach the most isolated areas. When the infection attacks, it causes severe damage to the skin. Small white blisters develop along white red spots referred to as maculopapular rash. These spots develop into bruises as the skin becomes pulpy in texture.
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