NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan doctors are testing a hospital patient in western Kenya who has Ebola-like symptoms, as eastern Congo is struggling to control the outbreak and Uganda has reported two deaths from the deadly hemorrhagic fever.
The female patient in Kenya is in isolation at Kericho County Referral Hospital where staff took precautions to ensure minimal contact, county spokesman Timothy Kimei said in a statement.
The patient had visited her spouse at the Uganda-Kenya border and three other family members are also under observation, according to Kenyan media.
Results from the test are expected in 12 to 24 hours. If confirmed as Ebola, it would be Kenya’s first ever case of the virus and represent a worrying spread of the disease from eastern Congo. Kenya has never experienced an Ebola outbreak and some Kenyan doctors have expressed concern about the country’s preparedness to manage the deadly virus.
However, Kenya’s health minister downplayed the threat Monday.
“The rapid surveillance and response team, which has been sent to examine the patient who is in stable condition, has confirmed that she does not fit the case definition of Ebola. Allow me to repeat to Kenyans that the patient does not meet the case definition of Ebola,” said Sicily Kariuki, while touring the Nairobi international airport to see how arriving passengers are screened for symptoms of fever.
“Precautionary measures have, however, been put in place including isolation of the patient and submission of blood samples … for testing,” she said. “The result of the same are expected by 4 p.m. this evening (Kenya time).”
Uganda last week reported two deaths from Ebola that had spread from eastern Congo where the current outbreak has caused more than 1,400 deaths since August.
An expert committee of the World Health Organization on Friday said Congo’s Ebola outbreak is an “extraordinary event” of deep concern but does not yet merit being declared a global emergency.
Speaking in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, World Health Organization chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday that he accepted the decision.
“From our side, I would like to pledge that we will continue mobilizing global and regional support to control this outbreak as soon as possible. It is not clean until the outbreak in (Congo) is finished,” he said, according to a statement from Uganda’s health ministry.
The spread of Ebola in eastern Congo has been “very unpredictable, with up and down trends,” he said.