The Tanzania government has warned members of the public to be on the alert following an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and recently reported in neighbouring Uganda, stressing that it has intensified measures against the deadly viral disease.
Speaking in Mwanza Region yesterday during her tour of one of the Ebola isolation centres as part of the national preparedness measures, Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ummy Mwalimu called upon members of the public to be at alert.
“The Ebola outbreak in Uganda increases chances of the disease crossing to Tanzania, thus the government through the Ministry of Health warns members of the public of this deadly disease,” Ms Mwalimu said.
She said Tanzania had not reported any case of Ebola, but it was not immune from the disease due to cross-border interactions.
“There is no reported case of Ebola in the country, but since the disease has crossed to Uganda and due to cross-border interactions with the neighbouring Uganda, there are high chances of contracting the viral disease,” she added.
Ms Mwalimu noted that regions which were at higher risk of the disease included Kagera, Mwanza and Kigoma and those at moderate risk were Katavi, Rukwa, Mbeya and Songwe.
“Because of this situation the entire country is at risk and the government will continue educating members of the public about the disease and preventive measures.”
She explained that, the Ebola outbreak was reported in Kasese District – Southwest of Uganda, which borders Kyerwa District in Tanzania’s Kagera Region.
Ms Mwalimu said on June 11, a five-year-old child was confirmed to have contracted the deadly virus, but unfortunately died on the following day.
She added that two more people from the same family were also confirmed to have contracted the disease, thus making a total of three confirmed cases of Ebola and two deaths in Uganda by June 13, this year.
Ms Mwalimu added that Ebola was reported for the first time in DRC in August last year, but according to reports from the central sub- Saharan African country and World Health Organisation (WHO) until June 14, this year, there were 2,108 Ebola patients and 1,411 deaths.
“This is a big challenge because the disease’s mortality rate is very high because according to statistics in every 100 Ebola patients, 77 of them died,” she said.
The minister further said that since Ebola cases were reported in DRC, her ministry had taken and would continue taking preventive measures against the deadly virus, among them being to warn of the disease through regional administrative secretaries across the country, which also included the issuance of a disease fact sheet and guidelines to the health staff on how they could take samples.
She said the government had also strengthened a coordination and monitoring system through the health staff in regions, districts and entry points and screening of people entering the country through various entry points and availability of walkthrough and hand held thermal scanners.
“We have already distributed sets of 3,500 personal protective equipment for the health staff through Medical Store Department zonal offices, but following the recent threat, we will provide 4,000 more sets that will be distributed to communities and all regional and district hospitals as preparedness measures,” she said.
The minister, however, directed all regions and councils in the country to strengthen the integrated disease surveillance and response system and provide weekly reports on time and involve various stakeholders in regions and councils in setting up various strategies of combating the disease.