Rwanda has advised its citizens against traveling to the neighbouring, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) city of Goma after a second case of Ebola was reported in the area.
“The Ministry has advised against unnecessary travels to Goma-Eastern Congo, following increasing number of cases confirmed in DRC, and requested that individuals who have recently travelled to an Ebola affected area to report to the nearest screening station and to report any suspected Ebola cases via the Ministry of health toll-free lines 114, police number 112 or to community health workers or the nearest health centre,” said Rwanda’s Health Minister Diane Gashumba at a press conference in Kigali on Thursday.
Earlier, reports indicated that Rwanda had closed the Gisenyi-Goma border over the Ebola threat.
Congolese in Gisenyi said they were not allowed to cross to Goma until around 2:00pm.
But Gashumba said Rwanda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo “is open, following traffic slow-down this morning as measures were put in place to reinforce screening procedures and public safety at entry points. To date, Rwanda remains Ebola free.”
Among key prevention measures are frequent washing of hands with clean water and soap, avoiding contact with blood and body fluids, as well as items that would have come in contact with an infected person’s blood and body fluids.
Ebola is transmitted through blood and body fluids, including vomit, urine, saliva, sweat. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, joint pain, headache, diarrhea, skin rash, vomiting, red eyes, stomach-ache and bleeding through different body parts.
Ebola has in recent years wreaked havoc in DRC, killing hundreds of people.
According to WHO, a total of 2671 cases (2,577 confirmed and 94 probable), including 1,790 deaths have been registered.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), on Wednesday warned that the “risk” of national Ebola spread was “high.”
Gashumba said Rwanda has a detailed National Preparedness Plan in place and has trained health workers in early detection and response, educated communities about Ebola, vaccinated health workers in high-risk areas, equipped health facilities, and continues to conduct simulation exercises to maintain a high level of readiness.
“Screening for Ebola symptoms at points of entry has been ongoing since the beginning of the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and has been reinforced since the confirmation of a case in Goma,’ said Gashumba.
“An Ebola Treatment Centre was put in place and 23 isolation units are being prepared in hospitals in 15 priority districts. Ebola response simulation exercises are on a regular basis within the community, borders, airport and treatment Centre to test Rwanda’s preparedness in response to a case, which includes emergency Operations Centre activation, active surveillance, case management and laboratory testing,” she added.
The Ministry said about 3000 health workers in high-risk areas have been vaccinated as a preventative measure, including more than 1100 in Rubavu district.
Tedros cautioned that the population in Goma, “is highly mobile, so this is an event we have anticipated. This is why we have been doing intensive preparedness work in Goma so that any new case is identified and responded to immediately.”
WHO said over 5,000 health workers have been vaccinated against Ebola in Goma.
“Health centres have been provided with training and equipment to improve infection prevention and control,” said Tedros, adding, “Screenings at border crossings have been reinforced and 24 hour monitoring implemented at the airport.”
Goma is the tourist capital of DRC and is close to a number of tourist sites, including the Virunga National Park, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979 and home to the endangered mountain gorillas.