Rwanda: Stopping Ebola in its tracks

APA - Kigali (Rwanda)

After two Ebola patients were successfully treated with new drugs in the city of Goma in eastern DR Congo, health officials in Kigali have announced new measures to contain the spread of the hemorrhagic fever using a communal approach in this huge urban settlement adjacent to Rubavu, on the Rwandan side of the border.

The announcement was made after Rwandan minister of Health, Dr Diane Gashumba has requested the population to remain calm as no single Ebola case has been registered in Rwanda to date.

With stringent border checks to prevent the disease from entering the country, Rwandan health officials also established strict screening on all entry points and Kigali International airport in addition to an Emergency Treatment Center (ETC) that was established in Rubavu District to screen and treat Ebola in case of an outbreak from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

"For the time being, we are encouraging community to provide information about people who have gone there [to affected places], and people who have developed symptoms of the [disease]," the senior Rwandan government official told a press briefing earlier this week in Kigali.

While all concerned stakeholders including the general public and local administrative authorities have been mobilised to combine efforts to ensure that the disease does not spread to Rwanda, still, outbreaks persist in DR Congo, creating a risk that infected people may cross into the country over the region’s exceptionally porous borders.

Meanwhile, reacting to the current situation, the World Health Organization (WHO) stressed that the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has continued as similar transmission intensity, yet there are no new confirmed cases reported in Goma city.

Latest reports by health authorities in the region indicate that since the outbreak, the haemorrhagic fever has gradually spread, infecting nearly 2,687 people and killing a total of 1,866 people.

With Rwanda’s main worry being that the virus could spread quicker in a densely populated area close to the Rwandan border, especially the DR Congo city of Goma, Rwandan minister of Health Dr Gashumba emphasized that public awareness and community mobilization is key to detecting any suspected case identified in the country.

In addition to current border screening measures, Rwandan authorities akso warned the public against inviting people from  Ebola-hit areas in DRC, insisting that unessential cross-border trade should be avoided.

Calling for national vigilance over transmission of the the deadly disease, Rwanda vaccinated about 3,000 healthcare providers and other frontline workers (safe burial teams, security guards and cleaners) in 15 high risk districts as part of preventive measures across the border with the DR Congo.

Now as the fight against the killer haemorrhagic fever continues to prove difficult in nieghboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with the virus spreading fast, Rwandan authorities have so far trained over 23,657 people including Doctors, nurses, hospital staff, Police, Red Cross Volunteers and Community Health Workers.

"No one knows when the Ebola haemorrhagic fever will end but we will be able to contain the outbreak from crossing the border using various using community-based prevention," Dr Gashumba said.

Among other strategies adopted are public mobilization campaign on Ebola symptoms, prevention measures and steps to follow if a case of the disease is suspected through community meetings, outreach events and church services.

But still experts believe that existing border control face a formidable task in controlling involved with smuggling operations who are mostly using informal border crossings which are often porous and traversed by foot between the two countries.


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