The increasing intensity of efforts to guard against the entry into Uganda of people infected with the deadly Ebola virus is evident at Entebbe International airport.
The ministry of Health and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) require every passenger to fill in a health information form before they can be screened. This move is meant to scale up scrutiny of the increasing number of passengers arriving into the country as the festive season draws close. Currently, the health team consists of at least 25 health workers.
“This form helps us ascertain whether any passenger has signs and symptoms such as headache, fever, diarrhoea or is vomiting which are plausible signs of Ebola before they can be fully screened,” says Dr James Sekajugo, a principal medical officer at the ministry of Health.
The form is then presented to the health teams who screen each passenger, taking note of their temperature, before releasing them to the immigrations desk. Those who exhibit the signs are identified and even isolated for further medical tests.
Of the over 100,000 people who have been screened since the process began in August, some 15 have shown the signs, although they later tested negative.
On the ready:
Prof Lonzy Ojok, a veterinary pathologist, however, notes that people who have been infected with the virus may not develop a fever and the illness for up to 12 days.
For now, Uganda remains free of Ebola. However, officials say that in the event of an attack, they are ready.
“We are in the process of compiling the travel data to help us determine where most passengers come from and what is the risk of Ebola transmission to Ugandans,” said Jeff Borchert, a health scientist with CDC-Uganda.
According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) situation report released on November 12, the viral haemorrhagic disease has killed at least 5,000 people and infected more than 14,000 – almost all of them in the worst-hit West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
However, WHO also admits the figures are underestimates, given the difficulty of collecting the data. It warns that there could be as many as 20,000 cases by the end of November if efforts to tackle the outbreak are not stepped up.
Source : The Observer