WHO re­leases $500,000 to con­tain dis­ease

The East African - - NEWS - By AGGREY OMBOKI Spe­cial Correspondent

KENYA AND Tan­za­nia are among coun­ties iden­ti­fied by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion as likely hotspots for the plague that has rav­aged Mada­gas­car and a re­cent Mar­burg virus dis­ease out­break in east­ern Uganda.

So se­ri­ous is the prospect of the Mar­burg Virus cross­ing over the bor­der to Kenya that the WHO has re­leased $500,000 to con­tain the epi­demic.

WHO’S lat­est up­date on the out­break put Tan­za­nia, South Africa, Sey­chelles, Ethiopia, Mau­ri­tius, La Réu­nion, Kenya, Co­moros and Mozam­bique on no­tice for pos­si­ble spread of dis­ease be­cause of trade and travel links with Mada­gas­car.

Over the past three months, the plague has claimed 124 lives with 1,133 cases of in­fec­tion in Mada­gas­car, while two peo­ple have died from the Mar­burg virus in Uganda in the past week.

WHO says the dis­ease first ap­peared in ports of Mada­gas­car in 1898.

“The re­cent ap­pear­ance in Mada­gas­car of a strain of the plague mi­crobe Yersinia pestis show­ing mul­tire­sis­tance to an­tibi­otics is a mat­ter of much con­cern and high­lights the ne­ces­sity for ef­fec­tive sur­veil­lance of the dis­ease. This strain, iso­lated from a pa­tient with bubonic plague, was re­sis­tant to all first–line an­tibi­otics as well as ma­jor al­ter­na­tive drugs,” says the doc­u­ment.

The Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary in Tan­za­nia’s Min­istry of Health, Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment, Gen­der, Chil­dren and the El­derly, Dr Mpoki Ulisubisya, said Ebola, Mar­burg and Zika fever have not been di­ag­nosed in the coun­try.

On Thurs­day, Ugan­dan Health Min­is­ter Jane Aceng con­firmed one case of the virus, say­ing a 50-year-old woman had died after doc­tors di­ag­nosed the dis­ease fol­low­ing a se­ries of tests on the pa­tient.

“Prior to her ill­ness and sub­se­quent demise, she had nursed her 42-year old brother who died on Septem­ber 25 after fall­ing sick with sim­i­lar signs and symp­toms,” said Ms Aceng.

Kenya has put mea­sures in place to pro­tect the coun­try from the dis­ease out­breaks.

The Min­istry of Health has in­ten­si­fied sur­veil­lance at all points of en­try and within coun­ties bor­der­ing east­ern Uganda, in­clud­ing Bu­sia, Bun­goma, Trans Nzoia and West Pokot.

Trav­ellers and crew mem­bers of ves­sels from the two coun­tries must un­dergo screen­ing and fill sur­veil­lance forms upon ar­rival in Kenya. Air­craft and ships from the two coun­tries are be­ing in­spected for ro­dent and flea in­fes­ta­tion.

Tan­za­nia and Kenya are yet to report cases of plague this year but have ex­pe­ri­enced the epi­demics be­fore.

From 1980 to 1997, hu­man plague was re­ported in Tan­za­nia ev­ery year with 7,246 cases and 585 deaths. Kenya re­ported 393 cases and 10 deaths in 1979 which was the last ma­jor epi­demic in the coun­try. A to­tal of 10 deaths oc­curred be­tween 1980 and 1990.

Pic­ture: AFP

A pic­ture re­leased by Medecin sans Fron­tieres on Oc­to­ber 25, shows an em­ployee en­ter­ing the Plague Triage and Treat­ment Cen­tre in Toa­masina, Mada­gas­car.

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