Health minister urges ‘contact tracing’ to prevent Ebola spread

Health minister Dr Diane Gashumba during the news conference on Thursday. / Sam Ngendahimana

The Ministry of Health has said that people should effectively report any Ebola case, as well as wash their hands at border crossings as a means of preventing the spreading of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

Dr Diane Gashumba, the Minister of Health, told Sunday Times that the first preventive measure against the disease is avoiding contact with the affected individual, but also, underscored the importance of hygiene to keep people free from the epidemic.

As one of rapid hygiene and sanitation response for people entering Rwanda from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which has recorded 2,600 Ebola cases, Rwanda has set up hand-washing facilities at DRC-Rwanda border.

The move is in line with strengthening measures to prevent this haemorrhagic fever virus that can spread through direct contact with bodily fluids such as urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola.

“We encourage people to provide information about people who have gone there [to affected places], and people who have developed symptoms of the [disease],” Gashumba said.

Her observations follow four confirmed Ebola cases in DRC’s Goma City, which borders Rwanda.

It is estimated that one Ebola-affected man in Goma got in contact with 138 people, which the Minister said are many.

She further added that contact tracing helps identify the affected people, and management of this haemorrhagic fever virus that can spread through direct contact with bodily fluids such as urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola.

Contact tracing is the identification and follow-up of persons who may have come into contact with a person infected with the Ebola virus.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), all close contacts should be monitored for 21 days following their last known exposure to the case, and be isolated if they become ill.

Minister Gashumba said that the four Ebola cases recorded in Goma include a pastor, a miner, his wife, and son.

The Pastor contracted the Ebola virus when he left South Kivu to evangelize in Butembo – one of the DRC’s Ebola-affected area – where he was praying for the sick and laying hands on them. He arrived in Goma on July 14, the same day he was diagnosed with Ebola, and died later.

The miner, who was from Mongbwalu, Ituri Province, had traveled via Beni and Butembo – two areas in DRC’s North Kivu Province – which are affected by the virus. He returned to Goma on July 13, while the disease onset was confirmed on July 22. He was treated but later died on July 30.

The miner’s son contracted the virus on July 29, while his wife was confirmed Ebola positive on July 31. They have been receiving treatment.

In one year since DRC declared an outbreak of the virus in North Kivu province, there have been more than 2,600 confirmed cases, including more than 1,800 deaths in parts of Ituri and North Kivu provinces, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)’s latest figures.

Two weeks ago, the epidemic was declared a public health emergency of international concern.

“The main message to our people is to avoid unnecessary travels to that place, and to keep the hygiene culture,” Gashumba observed.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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