Rwanda has refuted reports that a Congolese woman who succumbed to Ebola could have gone through the country on her way from Uganda, sending fears that the deadly virus could have reached Rwanda.
The country’s Minister of Health Dr Diane Gashumba told KT Press that it is not true that the reported woman, a fishmonger who died of Ebola this week, could have carried the virus into Rwanda on her way from neighboring Uganda, saying that there is no record of that movement.
Reports on Thursday quoting the World Health Organization (WHO) claimed that the woman could have gone through Rwanda, particularly Gisenyi town, Rubavu district on a business errand where she could have got in contact with some people before heading back to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where she died.
“It did not happen. We have talked to WHO and they said they did not provide that information to anybody. They told us they don’t know where the Journalist got the information from but WHO did not say that the person entered Rwanda,”
“They have denied knowledge of that. We have also crosschecked to see what the Ministry of Health in Uganda said. They didn’t mention that the victim came to Rwanda. We don’t know who provided this information to the journalist and the intent but it is not true,” Dr Gashumba said.
The woman, who has not been named, succumbed to the deadly virus in Goma, becoming one of the over 1, 680 victims of the most recent outbreak of Ebola in the mineral rich country. On Wednesday, WHO declared the Ebola outbreak in DRC an ‘international health emergency’.
Experts fear that the virus could easily spread to the neighboring countries of Uganda and Rwanda.
Three people have already been killed by the virus in Uganda though Kampala says the virus has been contained since appearing in the country last month.
Minister Gashumba said that Rwanda is yet to record an Ebola case and agencies remain on the alert to avert any possible outbreak but warned that reports like the one of the deceased woman can easily spread panic and fear.
“We have talked to WHO and they said they will address this issue but it should be noted that the reported incident didn’t happen,” Dr Gashumba said, ruling out the possibility of the victim bypassing checks or avoiding going through immigration channels.
Rwanda and Uganda share a long border with DRC, with experts fearing that regular movements of people, including those using porous borders, could spread the virus to the two neighboring countries.
According to reports, the Congolese fishmonger vomited multiple times at Mpondwe, a market across the border in Uganda on July 11, before heading back home, reportedly through Rwanda, dying a few days later. The reports quoted a WHO report, which also cited a Ugandan Health Ministry report.
A second fishmonger is reported to have died of Ebola in Congo on Tuesday after visiting the same Ugandan market.
No new measures
Despite WHO declaring the Ebola outbreak an international emergency, the Minister of Health said that there are no new prevention measures planned because the current emergency levels are already at the maximum.
“We have already been at the maximum level of readiness but we recognize the fact that WHO declaring the Ebola outbreak an international emergency will increase the attention the international community is giving to this situation,” Dr Gashumba said.
This week, Rwanda warned her citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to areas affected by Ebola after the first case was confirmed in the neighboring city of Goma.
This week, the first Ebola victim in Goma, the largest city in the eastern part of DRC which borders Rwanda, died on Tuesday. two days after he was identified. The Pastor became infected during a visit to the town of Butembo, one of the epicenters of the Ebola outbreak. He took a bus to Goma but showed signs of the disease. He was isolated on Sunday along with other people he was with on the bus. The unidentified woman became the second victim in the city of over 1 million people.
Border points between Rwanda and DRC remain the busiest, with daily traffic estimated at 100, 000 people.