Rwandans should not worry about the recent Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in the neighbouring Dr Congo, an official from the Ministry of Health said on Monday.
The official’s remarks followed reports indicating suspected cases of the virus in northeastern DR Congo.
“Our team is monitoring the situation closely. We have put in place a strong surveillance system, trained personnel, and kits to handle any suspected cases,” said Nathan Mugume, head of division at the Rwanda Health Communication Centre.
The assurance comes after media reports in neighbouring Uganda indicated that Kinshasa was testing suspected cases of the EVD virus, which were found in Aru as well as other parts of northeastern DR Congo.
Aru is a territory in Ituri District, Orientale Province, in DR Congo. It is located at the northern edge of the province on the border with Uganda to the east and South Sudan to the north.
Eugene Kabambi, a Communications Officer at the World Health Organisation (WHO) in DR Congo, told this paper that they were still verifiying the information from the national lab (INRB) and the MoH.
“So far, what has been reported are suspected cases. The Ministry of Health is well prepared to handle the situation in case of a spillover from neighbouring countries,” Mugume said.
This year, Ebola was first registered in Guinea in February before spreading to neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone.
By April 23, the number of suspected and confirmed Ebola cases had reached 242, including 142 deaths – a fatality rate of 59 per cent.
As of Friday, WHO announced a cumulative total of 1,048 suspected and confirmed cases of EVD and 632 deaths. Sierra Leone reported the highest number of new cases at 45.
The WHO and several aid organisations are calling this the largest and deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, since the discovery of the virus in 1976.
The last outbreaks of the virus occurred in DR Congo and in Uganda in 2012, but were quickly contained. But despite the shared border and back-to-back outbreaks, the WHO said no connection existed between the strain that affected Uganda, and the subtype in DR Congo. No cases of any Ebola strain have ever been reported in Rwanda.
Mugume said 32 health personnel have been trained on Ebola preparedness and response, and that there is an operational rapid response team composed of clinicians, laboratory specialists, and epidemiologists.
All public health facilities and 74 per cent of private health facilities were trained in integrated diseases surveillance and response. Furthermore, more than 278 health care providers and medical graduates in Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (FELTP) have received short courses on how to deal with infectious diseases.
The Rwanda Biomedical website provides advice on how to avoid the virus. They recommend that anyone travelling to Guinea, Liberia or West Africa in general should be vigilant and avoid close contact with Ebola cases, or anybody who has died from Ebola.
They also recommend that anyone who shows symptoms of the virus, or has been in contact with someone who has shown symptoms should immediately seek medical attention at the nearest health facility.
According to the World Health Organisation, symptoms of Ebola include sudden onset fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. Others are diarrhea, vomiting, impaired kidney and liver function, as well as internal and external bleeding.