RED ALERT: Suspected Ebola case causes havoc in South Sudan’s Nimule town, investigations start

Ebola Screening along the Ugandan-DRC border 2019. [Photo: ©WHO/Matthew Taylor]

Ebola Screening along the Ugandan-DRC border 2019. [Photo: ©WHO/Matthew Taylor]

JUBA —Health officials in Nimule, the border town between South Sudan and Uganda are holding one person with suspected Ebola Virus symptoms.

The suspect, a South Sudanese national is said to have traveled from Morobi Camp of Moyo district to Melijo camp of Adjumani district where he spent a short time before entering South Sudan through Elegu border into Nimule.

According to Nimule Hospital medical director Silvesto Nyumba, samples from the suspect who is now in isolation were taken to Juba for investigations and the results are expected soon.

“The man was having a cough, vomiting blood, high fever and with this, the person has to be tested and put in isolation. This is what we have done, he is isolated and his blood samples were taken to Juba yesterday and the result is not yet out,” he said.

Meanwhile, Eastern Equatoria State health minister Lodae Pasqual confirmed that the results are expected on Friday and called on the local population to minimize movement into neighboring countries until the virus is contained.

He urged the border communities to monitor and report illegal entry into the country through the porous border.

“As a government, we have also initiated the program of disease surveillance at the border point all along the Magwi corridor, the Ikwoto corridor, and the Budi corridor. We have initiated the activity of engaging the local government, the community and the youth to see if there is anybody who is coming in from Uganda or going out of Uganda we wish really to delay or restrict the movement,” he stressed.

Fears of porous borders

On weekend, officials in Nimule sounded an alarm over travelers who sneak into South Sudan without undergoing the Ebola screening.

Following the declaration and rapid spread of the killer Ebola Virus in Uganda last week, South Sudan authorities installed Ebola screening stations at the borders with Uganda to curb the spread of the disease into the country. Uganda has confirmed more than 30 cases and five deaths.

However, Major Gatluak Riak, the director of customs at the Nimule border said though measures are being set up, travelers are sneaking into the country, putting thousands at risk of contracting the contagious virus.

“At the border point even people staying in Nimule, many people here go and bring foodstuffs from Uganda because this border is open even passengers are sneaking to people in Nimule and people will not know. These people come from far distant places and people will think these are people within Nimule. This is another challenge,” he said.

The customs official said they are working with health officials and the police to ensure those crossing into South Sudan are screened before they enter the country.

Silvester Nyuma, a medical director at Nimule Hospital said the screening exercise started this week at the border.

“Everybody entering South Sudan in the border he/she will be screened of temperature, his temperature will be taken and anybody with high temperature will be isolated and he will be asked other signs associated with this disease,” he explained. “If anybody is found with such signs and symptoms of Ebola he will be isolated. There is a team called rapid response which will come with an ambulance to take these suspects for isolation.”

Okeny John, a resident of Nimule says he is living in fear due to the free movement of people across the border.

He urged the health officials and residents to remain vigilant to avoid travelers crossing without screening.

Dr. Ethin Concord, Director General in the state Ministry of Health revealed that the state would send a team to assess the situation at the border but logistics is a challenge.

“We are also arranging to send a team to go to Nimule to assess the situation there we are still looking for logistics and support on how we can reach Nimule. It is our responsibility to send a team of about two to three people to go and assess the situation otherwise the awareness has already gone to the payams, Bomas is already active,” Dr. Concord said. “Of course, citizens are afraid but we assure them that they have to take precautions there is nothing to panic about,” he explained.

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

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