Uganda-DRC border point on high alert over Ebola outbreak

Thursday, June 13, 2019
By Paul Martin

Grace Matsiko
Yahoo.com
June 13, 2019

Mpondwe (Uganda) (AFP) – At the bustling Mpondwe border post, a woman crossing from the Democratic Republic of Congo into Uganda is whisked away to an isolation unit after a thermal scanner picks up her high temperature.

Health workers keep Mulefu Kyakimwa, a 32-year-old vegetable oil trader, under observation but later discharge her, once Ebola has been ruled out as the cause of her fever.

The border post is on high alert after a family with suspected Ebola escaped isolation on the Congolese side and entered Uganda, where two of them died this week.

The spread of the deadly virus to Uganda comes after months of efforts in a region of porous borders to contain an outbreak in Congo which has killed 1,400 people, according to the latest official data.

“Since the start of the outbreak, the total number of cases is 2,084, of which 1,990 have been confirmed and another 94 are probable,” the Congolese health ministry said in its daily bulletin from Wednesday.

“In all, there have been 1,405 deaths — 1,311 confirmed and 94 probable — and 579 people have recovered,” the bulletin said, adding that 132,679 people had been vaccinated.

– ‘We expected it’ –

Few people seem to be surprised that Ebola would eventually make its way to Uganda — which has experienced outbreaks in the past.

“The outbreak is not a surprise. We expected it. People cross the borders all the time and interact a lot,” said Dorcus Kambere, a 29-year-old Ugandan bar attendant who feels her job puts her at risk.

At Mpondwe — where 25,000 people cross daily — travellers undergo rigorous health checks to detect the lethal virus, which attacks the organs and leads to internal and external bleeding.

Soldiers carrying automatic rifles guide travellers through the screening process, making sure they wash their hands with disinfectant.

The travellers then pass through a shelter with a thermal scanner that feeds people’s body temperatures into a computer.

“This is a situation we go through every day since the Ebola outbreak,” said Ambrose Nyakitwe, 34, a Ugandan trader returning from the Congo side.

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