WHO, US offer to assist as mystery disease fears rise

14Sep 2019
The Guardian Reporter
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
WHO, US offer to assist as mystery disease fears rise

TOP government health officials were yesterday tight-lipped over a mysterious viral infection availability of unknown illness in the country yesterday even as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States offered to assist the government in preventing an outbreak.

In a statement, the country office of WHO said it is working with national health authorities on the issue and expects to make public the outcome of its investigations.

“We have reached out to Ministry of Health officials for further details and have offered our support. In line with our responsibility under international health regulations, WHO regularly receives and investigates numerous rumours of public health events,” the agency noted.

It further stated that WHO will be informing member states of the outcome of this investigation through national focal points of its operations.

WHO said in an advisory on Thursday that it had deployed a technical team to support investigation of a rumour in connection with mysterious disease outbreak or any reported case.

The US embassy in Dar es Salaam said yesterday that it was prepared to partner with the government and members of the international community to assist in the efforts.

Reached for comments yesterday, the Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ummy Mwalimu and her deputy Dr Faustine Ndugulile did not pick the phone despite several attempts.

The Guardian also called the chief medical officer, Prof Muhammad Kambi but like the minister and the deputy minister, his phone rang without being picked.

Following the outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic of Congo (DRC) last year, the government through the Ministry of Health organized a charity walk to launch the public awareness sensitisation campaign to help enhance vigilance on health norms to prevent disease outbreak.

With the theme of ‘Understand Ebola, prevent, save life,’ the walk conducted on September 22rd last year in Dar es Salaam brought participants from various public health stakeholders including government officials, students, development partners, journalists, along with public and private organizations.

The ministry said that Tanzania faces a serious threat of an ebola epidemic as people regularly cross from areas hit by the disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Then Permanent Secretary Dr Mpoki Ulisubisya said that although ebola cases had not been recorded in the country, prevention measures must strongly be instituted at all levels.

Thermo scanners were also installed at international airports around the country for screening of visitors.

Last month, scientists announced that Ebola may soon become preventable and treatable after a trial of two drugs that when combined showed significantly improved survival rates.

Four drugs were used for trials on patients in the DRC where there have been periodic outbreaks of the virus.

More than 90 per cent of infected people can survive if treated early with the most effective drugs, research findings affirmed, and the drugs will now be used to treat ebola patients in DRC.

The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which co-sponsored the trial, said the results are "very good news" for the fight against Ebola.

The drugs, named REGN-EB3 and mAb114, work by attacking the Ebola virus with antibodies, neutralising its impact on human cells.

The recent outbreak in eastern DR Congo began in August last year and is the biggest of 10 flare ups of the disease to hit the country since 1976, when the virus was first discovered.

In July, the WHO declared the Ebola crisis in DRC as a public health emergency of international concern, as it constantly threatens to spread to neighbouring states.