There is heightened surveillance by Kanungu district health officials at the common border with the Democratic Republic of Congo-DRC following the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.
On October 8th, 2021, DRC’s Minister of Public Health, Hygiene and Prevention, Dr. Jean-Jacques Mbungani Mbanda confirmed the outbreak of Ebola in Butsili health area, Beni North Kivu province, about 162 miles to the Uganda-DRC border of Kanungu.
This followed the death of a 3-year-old boy in a local health facility on October 6, 2021. He lived in the same community where three family members died in September after presenting Ebola-like symptoms, according to Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.
The minor first developed symptoms including physical weakness, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, breathing difficulty, dark stool and blood in his vomit. On 7th October 2021, the National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) laboratory in Beni tested his samples for molecular analysis.
They were later sent to the Rodolphe Mérieux INRB laboratory, Goma on 8 October, which confirmed Ebola by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) on the same day. Now, Kato Besisira, the Kanungu Assistant District Health Officer in charge of Environmental health, who is also the chairperson of the district Ebola taskforce told our reporter that screening facilities have been placed at the Ishasha and Butogota entry points to make sure that any person crossing to Uganda is thoroughly checked.
He says that health workers deployed at the border screening points received virtual training on how to handle people crossing from DR Congo to Uganda, with the help of the ministry of health. Besisira also says that they have already notified all the implementing partners in the district like Red Cross and United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) among others, to intervene and provide help in case of any need.
He also says that they are now conducting several meetings with all health workers as a way of getting prepared to handle the situation in case they register a case. Besisira however says that they are facing a challenge of lack of Personal Protective Equipment for health workers to protect them from getting in direct contact with the suspected cases.
Hajji Shafiq Ssekandi, the Kanungu Resident District Commissioner says that they have already started a sensitization campaign through local radio stations to make locals aware of the outbreak in DR Congo.
Ssekandi urges locals to remain vigilant and report any suspected cases to relevant health authorities. He also asks them to avoid unnecessary crossings to DR Congo. Ebola vaccination started in Beni on Wednesday last week with 1,000 doses of rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine administered. Other medical supplies were delivered from the capital Kinshasa to the city of Goma in North Kivu.
Nearly 200 doses were sent to Beni, near the health area of Butsili where the confirmed case was detected, according to the WHO. Dr Michel Kaseraka Tosalisana, the chief medical officer of the Beni health zone and coordinator of the local Ebola response committee in North Kivu province says that health officials are monitoring the disease at the same time fighting COVID-19.