Uganda increases border surveillance over Ebola threats

KAMPALA – The Ugandan government has deployed surveillance officers along its borders to detect potential carriers of the Ebola virus.

"We have instituted all measures to detect any case and have put our officers on high alert," Health Minister Ruhakana Rugunda told a Thursday press conference.

The ministry has instructed all border posts to step up their disease-surveillance checkpoints, especially for those coming from affected countries.

Over the past two months, hundreds of Ebola infections have been reported in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

"We are further preparing the necessary logistics to be distributed to border entry points, especially Entebbe International Airport, to register all cases," said the minister.

Asked by Anadolu Agency if surveillance at Entebbe Airport had begun yet, he said: "We have just sent logistics and checking must start tomorrow."

"We are advising the public to limit their travels, if it is not very important, to any of the affected countries until the situation is contained," Rugunda added.

He was quick to clarify, however, that there were no bans on traveling to the affected countries, but advised travellers to "observe the precautionary measures instituted by the respective countries."

Those with relatives living in the affected countries have also been asked to remain on alert in the event that their relatives return to Uganda.

As of June 30, the deadly virus had affected 759 people in West Africa, 467 of whom – including one Ugandan doctor – had succumbed to the epidemic.

"There is no cause for alarm; the public must stay calm because all measures have been undertaken to prevent any possible outbreaks," the health minister said.

Ebola is a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus – which tends to cause severe viral hemorrhagic fever – has a fatality rate of some 90 percent.

It can be transmitted to humans from wild animals and also spreads through human-to-human transmission.

As of June 17, a total of 264 Ebola deaths and 398 infections had been reported in Guinea; 24 deaths and 33 infections in Liberia; and 49 deaths and 97 infections in Sierra Leone, according to the WHO.

The tropical fever first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It was named after the Ebola River, which runs close to the Congolese town of Yambuku – the site of the first documented case of the virus.

The last outbreak in Uganda was reported in November 2012.

Uganda suffered its worst Ebola outbreak in 2000, when the virus infected 425 people – ultimately killing more than half of them – in Northern Uganda.

A later outbreak in 2007 killed 37 people in Western Uganda.

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency