Tan­za­nia de­nies hid­ing info on sus­pected Ebola cases

The Korea Times - - HEALTH -

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Tan­za­nia on Thurs­day re­jected sus­pi­cions that it might have cov­ered up cases of the deadly Ebola virus, call­ing it a plot to show the coun­try “in a bad light.”

The health min­is­ter’s com­ments came af­ter the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion is­sued an un­usual state­ment say­ing Tan­za­nia re­fused to share in­for­ma­tion and the United States and Bri­tain is­sued travel warn­ings. The cur­rent Ebola out­break based in neigh­bor­ing east­ern Congo is now the sec­ond-dead­li­est in his­tory with more than 2,000 peo­ple killed.

Tan­za­nian Health Min­is­ter Ummy Mwal­imu said there were two sus­pected Ebola cases last month but the East African coun­try de­ter­mined they did not have the virus.

“Ebola is not a dis­ease one can hide,” the min­is­ter said. “Tan­za­nia is well aware of the dan­gers of hid­ing such an epi­demic.”

Global health of­fi­cials had re­peat­edly asked Tan­za­nia to share the re­sults of its in­ves­ti­ga­tions, but Mwal­imu as­serted there is no need to sub­mit a “neg­a­tive sam­ple” for fur­ther test­ing.

Coun­tries with lit­tle or no ex­pe­ri­ence test­ing for Ebola, es­pe­cially ones such as Tan­za­nia which have never had a con­firmed Ebola case, are asked to send sam­ples to a WHO-ac­cred­ited lab to con­firm the ini­tial re­sults, no mat­ter whether they are pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive.

Tan­za­nia’s health min­is­ter said the coun­try will fol­low in­ter­na­tional pro­to­cols, in­clud­ing re­port­ing to WHO, “if there is an Ebola case.”

WHO has said it was made aware on Sept. 10 of the death in Tan­za­nia’s com­mer­cial cap­i­tal, Dar es Salaam, of a pa­tient sus­pected to have Ebola. A day later, it re­ceived un­of­fi­cial re­ports that an Ebola test had come back pos­i­tive. On Thurs­day, it re­ceived un­of­fi­cial re­ports that a con­tact of the pa­tient, who had trav­eled widely in the coun­try, was sick and hos­pi­tal­ized.

The lack of in­for­ma­tion from Tan­za­nia made it dif­fi­cult to as­sess po­ten­tial risks, WHO said.

A rapid re­sponse is cru­cial in con­tain­ing Ebola, which can be fa­tal in up to 90 per­cent of cases and is most of­ten spread by close con­tact with bod­ily flu­ids of peo­ple ex­hibit­ing symp­toms or with con­tam­i­nated ob­jects.

The ini­tial symp­toms for Ebola, in­clud­ing fever and pain, are sim­i­lar to those of other dis­eases such as malaria and measles, and mis­takes in di­ag­no­sis and mis­man­age­ment of pa­tients could in­ad­ver­tently al­low an out­break to spread.

Crit­ics have shown in­creas­ing alarm as Tan­za­nian Pres­i­dent John Magu­fuli’s gov­ern­ment has re­stricted ac­cess to key in­for­ma­tion and cracked down on per­ceived dis­sent. Law­mak­ers re­cently ap­proved an amend­ment to a sta­tis­tics law to make it a crime to dis­trib­ute in­for­ma­tion not sanc­tioned by the gov­ern­ment or which con­tra­dicts the gov­ern­ment.

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