Rwanda has reinstated the use of non-contact thermometers across all its border posts with Uganda following an Ebola outbreak in the neighbouring country that has killed five and infected 19 other people.
Health workers in protective coats and face masks at the Gatuna and Kagitumba borders have begun measuring temperatures of travellers and taking down their travel histories as Kigali seeks to prevent cross-border infections.
Although Rwanda has not suffered a single Ebola case in the past, Uganda’s Mubende District—where Ebola has been reported—is about a six-hour drive from the border.
This close proximity has heightened alertness in Rwanda, with the government urging residents to consider preventive measures.
“The Ministry of Health strongly urges each and every one to be cautious and seriously comply with the preventive measures against the Ebola Virus Disease as it is easily preventable when one abides by hygiene standards and avoids unnecessary visits and contact with people who have travelled to areas affected by the Ebola outbreak,” a statement reads.
“Avoid unnecessary travel coming from the area affected by the Ebola outbreak; avoid receiving travellers coming from the affected area (Mubende); when you know where they are in the country, immediately report to the nearest local authority.”
Two of Rwanda’s neighbours – Uganda and DRC – have suffered Ebola outbreaks in the past, with officials saying they are aware and alert of the danger that this comes with.
At the height of the Ebola epidemic in DRC in 2019, Rwanda increased border surveillance; trained over 23,600 medical personnel, police officers and volunteers; and embarked on a countywide sensitisation campaign about the virus.
The country’s most serious scare came in August 2019 when reports by the World Health Organization claimed that a fishmonger who “died of the virus may have carried the disease into the country from eastern DRC.”
Rwanda rejected this claim and, thereafter, WHO retracted the statement and commended Rwanda’s preparedness efforts, while stating that no cases of Ebola were reported in the country.
The virus had claimed over 2,000 in DRC by September 2019, while threatening to break into neighbouring countries Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania.
Ebola response simulation exercises were conducted in multiple district hospitals to test Rwanda’s preparedness in conducting emergency operations, surveillance and lab tests in case of a reported Ebola case.
The country also vaccinated about 3,000 health workers as a preventative measure, including more than 1,100 in Gisenyi town that borders DRC.
Ebola is a deadly disease in people and nonhuman primates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected animal, or a sick or infected dead person.
Ebola symptoms include fever, headache, joint pain, sore throat, fatigue, diarrhoea, regular vomiting, stomach ache and bleeding.