[30th August 2014]

Measures to prevent Ebola Disease outbreak

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International trade has informed all visitors and tourists that Kenya is aware that the Ebola Virus Disease in parts of the West African region has become a global concern. While the outbreak was first reported in March, 2014 in Guinea, it had spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone by May, 2014. By July 2014, Nigeria became the latest West African country to confirm the outbreak.

Accordingly the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Ebola outbreak in the four countries in West Africa a Public Health emergency of international concern and 2127 people have been infected while over 1000 have died of the disease.

Measures to prevent the spread of Ebola virus into Kenya

While the Kenya Government through Ministry of Health is closely monitoring the outbreak in West Africa, the Ministry of Health has implemented the following measures to prevent the spread of the disease into the country as well as preparing for early detection and appropriate responses:

  1. The Ministry of health has constituted a multiagency Ebola Task Force comprising public health experts and other stakeholders to assess the situation at local, country, regional and global levels and advice the Ministry on response activities. The Task Force has been in place for three months now.
  2. The Ministry has been working with airlines to screen travelers who come from or transit through West Africa. For such travelers, a minimum package of information (including personal details, exact location of origin/transit and presence of any suggestive signs and symptoms) are collected to aid personal risk assessment and daily follow-up for 21 days if they will still be resident in the country. To date, more than 10,000 travelers from West Africa have been screened.
  3. A diagnostic laboratory for Ebola and other hemorrhagic fevers has been established at the Kenya Medical Research Centre (KEMRI).
  4. Ebola fact sheets and travelers' information sheets indicating mode of seeking behavior have also been provided to health workers, incoming and outgoing travelers and to all airlines operating on West African routes.
  5. The Ministry has established temporary holding rooms at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) where suspected cases of Ebola will be retained and assessed further while awaiting possible transfer to isolation facilities.
  6. An isolation facility has been identified at Kenyatta National Hospital and additional isolation facilities will be made available at Mbagathi District Hospital in Nairobi, in Uasin Gishu County, Busia County, Kajiado County, Mombasa County and other major towns near ports of entry into Kenya.
  7. The Ministry has secured special Personal Protective Equipment which is being distributed into strategic regional hospitals for use if needed. These will protect staff who may attend to suspect cases.
  8. The Ministry has developed an Ebola Contingency Plan to guide the implementation of prevention, preparedness and response activities. This will create order in responding to the threat from the outbreak in West Africa and create synergy among the various actors.
  9. 100 Health workers have been trained on Ebola Management and an additional 200 will be trained over the next 3 weeks.
  10. On 19th August, 2014, the Government of Kenya temporarily suspended entry into Kenya of passengers travelling from and through the three West African countries affected by Ebola namely Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. This suspension applied to all Kenyan ports of entry. The suspension will exclude Health Professionals supporting efforts to contain the outbreak and Kenyan citizens returning home from those three countries. However, such passengers will undergo extensive screening and thereafter close monitoring and where necessary shall be quarantined.

On 21st August, 2014, the EAC Partner States National Civil Aviation Authorities and National Airport Authorities held a meeting to deliberate on measures to mitigate and prevent the spread of Ebola Virus Disease and other communicable diseases into the East African Region. The meeting agreed among others;

  1. Partner States continue to adhere to and enforce all the relevant International Regulations and Guidelines from International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), WHO, International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airport Council International (ACI) with regard to Civil Aviation and International Public Health Measures.
  2. Establish Effective lines of communication between the Public Health Sector and the Civil Aviation Sector including airlines.

Conclusion
The risk of travelers contracting Ebola is considered low because it requires direct contact with body fluids. In addition Ebola cannot be spread like flue through casual contact or breathing the same air. Therefore, the risk of people contracting Ebola to travelers and people working in affected countries is very low.

No cases of the Ebola Virus have been reported in Kenya so far. The Government of Kenya through the Ministry of Health is continuing to monitor the outbreak in West Africa to inform further actions required for review of the measures that have been put in place.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Trade (August, 2014)

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