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Kenya intensifies surveillance to prevent Ebola outbreak

13 August 2014, 14:39

Nairobi - The government said Wednesday it has stepped up surveillance at points of entry following alert from the World Health Organization that the country is highly vulnerable to transmission of the deadly virus.

Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said President Uhuru Kenyatta has ordered state agencies to intensify surveillance measures at the main airports and borders.

"The ministry of health has been closely monitoring the evolution of Ebola outbreak in West Africa and have adopted stringent measures to prevent importation of cases into the country," Macharia told journalists in Nairobi.

So far, the government has ruled out any Ebola case following thorough screening on passengers originating from West Africa, he said. More than 10,000 travellers from West Africa have been screened.

The health cabinet secretary noted heavy human traffic from Ebola hotspots has increased Kenya's vulnerability.

To strengthen Ebola detection, the government has established temporary holding rooms at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Macharia said an additional isolation facility will be established at a public hospital in Nairobi.

"Assessment for potential isolation facilities is ongoing in four counties and towns near ports of entry into Kenya," Macharia said.

Macharia revealed that 100 health workers have been trained on Ebola management and an additional 200 will be trained in the next three weeks.

Kenya and the neighbouring countries have grappled with Ebola scare in the last two weeks. Macharia said consultations are ongoing to develop a joint approach to combat Ebola.

"We are exploring the possibility of holding a sub regional meeting involving East African community member states and Ethiopia to develop a common response to Ebola," said Macharia.

WHO has elevated Ebola risk levels to group 2 in Kenya based on its position as a regional transport hub and massive human traffic in the porous borders.

WHO Country Director Custodia Mandlhate said Kenya has been classified as at high risk of transmission.

WHO said the east African nation is a major transport hub in the region receiving 76 flights a week making it vulnerable to Ebola.

The government has confirmed it has not advised the national carrier, Kenya Airways or any other airlines from flying to or from West Africa.

Kenya Airways incoming CEO Mbuvi Nguze said the airline will not stop its flight to the four countries which have been affected by Ebola despite the UN health agency declaring the situation emergency.

The WHO last Friday declared Ebola an international health emergency. It made a number of recommendations for countries looking to stop transmission of the disease, for states with potential cases and for states that are not currently affected but are seeking to reduce the risk of exposure.

So far, more than 1000 people have died of Ebola in four West African countries.

Health officials have warned that the East African region is vulnerable to an Ebola outbreak due to human migration and tropical weather.

 - Xinhua

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