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23 dead as Uganda Ebola infections jump to 36

 Kericho medics in protective gear over Ebola scare.

At least 23 people have died of Ebola disease in Uganda.

Commissioner of Surveillance at Ministry of Health Dr Allan Muruta says at least 36 other cases have been reported with 18 having been confirmed and 18 still under evaluation.

Reports indicate two more cases and two deaths were reported in the last 24hrs.

This represents a case fatality rate of 64 per cent since the last case was reported last week.

Muruta says outbreak interventions have been put in place including simplified messaging on signs and symptoms and emergency contact lines.

So far 399 contacts have been traced and 104 are being followed up. 13 people are said to have escaped from isolation units.

These developments come even as residents of Busia County demand intensified surveillance along the porous border in the fight against the virus.

Some residents claimed that people were using panya (illegal) routes at Lwakhakha, Sofia and Swam in Kitale to cross into the country from Uganda without being screened.

"We want the panya routes sealed off by security agents so that people can be screened at designated centres before they are allowed in," said Wakabin Musafa, a hawker in Malaba town.

The Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Busia county government have been screening truck drivers and people crossing into Kenya at Malaba and Busia border points since last week.

Busia County Commissioner Samson Ojwang said they intend to establish special holding rooms for individuals who test positive for Ebola.

"We have intensified screening in Busia and Malaba where truck drivers and everybody else visiting the country must undergo mandatory testing and we are in the process of establishing holding sites for those who test positive for Ebola," Mr Ojwang told journalists yesterday.

Fishermen in Budalang'i urged the government to intensify surveillance in beaches along Lake Victoria.

"The Ministry of Health ought to deploy officers on the ground to screen people coming in from Uganda every day," said Omondi Ndege, the secretary of Maranga-Omena beach.

He said the screening must be extended to the beaches in Budalang'i because "our people visit Uganda every day, meaning they interact with their hosts freely."

Omondi said fishermen and business people plying their trade along the beaches were living in fear of contracting Ebola due to the free movement of people to and from Uganda which has reported four Ebola deaths.

Governors Fernandes Barasa (Kakamega,) Kenneth Lusaka (Bungoma) and George Natembeya (Trans Nzoia) cautioned residents against crossing into Uganda through the illegal routes.

Natembeya said his administration in partnership with the national government will seal off all illegal routes to minimise movement.

Barasa advised residents to take precautions because the county neighbours Busia.

"Ebola is a deadly disease and we must be careful because Uganda has confirmed several deaths," said the county chief.

"Our counties and national government should collaborate and deploy more health and custom officials alongside the police officers to heighten surveillance at border points that could be used by some unscrupulous people to sneak in and out," said Musafa.

Musafa said hawkers and other traders were at high risk of contracting Ebola because they meet their counterparts from Uganda and even Congo in their daily activities.

Peter Wasike, a resident of Sofia along the Malaba border, said the authorities must map out all entry points and have screening machines deployed at strategic points to ensure all those crossing into the country are screened and given a clean bill of health.

"Most of the people you see around do not use the designated border points of Malaba One Stop Border Point and Lwakhakha, they use shortcuts because some of them engage in illegal business and fear being nabbed by the police," said Mr Wasike.

Last week, Kenyan authorities and health officials heightened surveillance at designated border points between Kenya and Uganda.

Busia Deputy Governor Arthur Odera said they are working with the national government for screening and testing at border points alongside creating awareness on the disease.

"We are working closely with the national government because the state is one that has an epidemiological policy that enhances screening and recording of data at border points to ensure there is high surveillance in all border points alongside creating awareness to people about the disease," said Odera.

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