Suspected Ebola patient isolated as call for vigilance intensifies


A billboard bearing a health message about ebola.

Photo credit: File

Health officials in Kakamega are on high alert after a man suspected of having Ebola virus disease was detained in the county.

Reports from the health officials indicated that the patient from Nambale sub-county in Busia County travelled to eastern Uganda on September 15, where he got trauma and was cut on the right upper limb.

Dr Hilda Abwao, the director of disease surveillance at St Mary’s Hospital, Mumias, said the disease carries all signs of malaria.

He said the only symptom related to Ebola from the patient was bleeding from body openings.

Major symptoms of Ebola, according to medical experts, include fever, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, headache, sore throat, abdominal pains, weakness and fatigue.

“This could be a result of other diseases in the body. We have taken the samples to the government laboratory to reveal what it is,” said Dr Abwao.

Mr Boaz Gichana, the Mumias West sub-county Disease Surveillance coordinator, said the 32-year-old sought medication at a health facility in Uganda.

The cut was sutured before he moved back to Kenya to seek further medical attention.

“On September 28, 2022, he started experiencing blood in his urine and proceeded to St Mary’s Hospital, Mumias, for further management. He is currently at the hospital isolation unit for further management,” said Mr Gichana.

According to the medical results, the patient presented malaise (general body weakness), a stitched wound at the right upper limb that was actively bleeding, and blood in the urine.

Kakamega Deputy Governor Ayub Savula said health officials had taken samples from the patient to Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) to ascertain whether he was Ebola-positive.

“The report will come out after 24 hours. Meanwhile, we have dispatched health officials to border points to start screening all people entering Kakamega, especially from counties neighbouring Uganda,” said Mr Savula.

Sub-county public health officer Charles Namasake Wafula ruled out Ebola. He said the man was admitted with a bleeding cut on his hand and passed blood in his urine. “We did our investigation and ruled out an Ebola case. This man might have been beaten, hence the blood in his urine.”

It is unclear why Mr Gichana wrote that it was a suspected Ebola case, yet they did the investigation together with Mr Wafula.

The team of five who investigated the matter was waiting for the results from the laboratory.

Counties in Western Kenya remain at risk following what residents and some experts term lack of caution at the border points. While some form of vigilance and caution is being taken at the Kenya–Uganda border, residents feel not much is being done to keep the virus at bay.

A spot check by Saturday Nation team revealed that screening of travellers from Uganda was ongoing at Busia and Malaba border posts. Their temperatures were checked at port health facilities.

According to one of the medical officers, who requested anonymity as she is not mandated to speak to the media, since the outbreak of the virus in Uganda, they have not recorded any case of an individual displaying Ebola symptoms at the Busia border post.

She noted that they have a holding room to accommodate anybody exhibiting such symptoms, the first being a high temperature.

Busia governor Paul Otuoma called on locals to remain vigilant. Addressing members of the public at ATC ground, Dr Otuoma warned locals against needlessly crossing over into Uganda.

“Being that we are at the border, we should be very careful. Let us take this issue seriously. I am told a case has been reported in Kakamega and they all pass through Busia, so we must be vigilant and take care of ourselves.”

However, the challenge is that porous routes at Sofia and Marachi in Busia are still being used to gain access into the country.

Western Regional Commissioner Isaiah Nakoru, for his part, warned the public against spreading false information that could raise unnecessary alarm.

“The tests will reveal what the patient is suffering from and social media users should stop spreading alarming information regarding Ebola infection.”

Mr Nakoru also announced that a multi-sectoral team from Busia, Bungoma and Kakamega counties, security officers and Health ministry officials had pitched camp at entry points at Busia, Malaba and Lwakhakha for screening of people entering the country from Uganda. He asked security officers in the region to seal the porous borders.

“Those using ‘panya routes’ should be stopped so that only official routes where monitoring is being conducted are maintained,” he added.

Meanwhile, residents urged the county government to launch contact tracing to find the people who might have interacted with the patient. Mr Kennedy Echesa said the September 15–30 period when the alert was issued was long enough for the patient to have mingled with others.

Mr Joel Olwenyi, a civil society coordinator in Kakamega County, called for an Ebola prevention advocacy campaign.

By Amina Wako, Shaban Makokha, Angela Oketch and Okong’o Oduya