WHO raises the alarm about Ebola de­tails in Tanzania

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By Cara Anna

The cases would be the first-ever Ebola in­fec­tions con­firmed in the East African coun­try.

JO­HAN­NES­BURG — The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion has is­sued an un­usual state­ment rais­ing ques­tions about whether Tanzania is cov­er­ing up pos­si­ble cases of the deadly Ebola virus, a sig­nif­i­cant cause for con­cern dur­ing a re­gional out­break that has been de­clared a rare global health emer­gency.

The state­ment Satur­day says Tanzania’s gov­ern­ment “de­spite sev­eral re­quests” is re­fus­ing to share the re­sults of its in­ves­ti­ga­tions into a num­ber of pa­tients with Ebola-like symp­toms and is re­fus­ing to ship pa­tient sam­ples to an out­side WHO part­ner lab.

Tanzania’s gov­ern­ment, which has said it has no Ebola cases, could not be reached for com­ment Sun­day. The cases would be the first-ever Ebola in­fec­tions con­firmed in the East African coun­try.

The U.N. health agency says it was made aware 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.

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

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

The Ebola out­break based in neigh­bor­ing Congo has in­fected more than 3,000 peo­ple and killed nearly 2,000 of them. A few cases have been con­firmed in neigh­bor­ing Uganda as well, and other neigh­bor­ing coun­tries have been pre­par­ing for the out­break’s pos­si­ble spread.

This is not the first time health of­fi­cials have raised se­ri­ous ques­tions about the sus­pected Tanzania cases. On Mon­day, the U.S. health and hu­man ser­vices sec­re­tary, Alex Azar, told re­porters in Uganda that he and others were “very con­cerned about the lack of trans­parency” in Tanzania.

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.

The World Bank was among those ex­press­ing con­cern at that amend­ment.

JEROME DE­LAY/AP

Burial work­ers in pro­tec­tive gear carry the re­mains of an Ebola-in­fected per­son July 14 in Congo, where an out­break has in­fected more than 3,000 peo­ple and killed nearly 2,000.

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