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03.10.2019 Tanzania

Ebola concerns in Tanzania are 'rumours', says minister

By AFP
An Ebola victim is buried in Butembo, eastern DR Congo. More than 2,100 people have died in the 14-month-old epidemic.  By JOHN WESSELS (AFP)
OCT 3, 2019 TANZANIA
An Ebola victim is buried in Butembo, eastern DR Congo. More than 2,100 people have died in the 14-month-old epidemic. By JOHN WESSELS (AFP)

Tanzania on Thursday again dismissed concerns about possible Ebola cases in the country as "rumours which everyone should ignore", after the US and Britain warned their citizens over a suspect case.

Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said there had been no confirmed cases of Ebola in Tanzania, which shares a border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where more than 2,100 people have died in an outbreak of the disease.

She said since 2018, when that epidemic in DRC began, Tanzania had identified 28 suspected cases of the disease -- including two in September -- but all had tested negative.

"There has not been any Ebola case confirmed in Tanzania," she told reporters in Dar es Salaam.

"Information spreading about Ebola here is just rumours which everyone should ignore... Instead of spreading rumours and expressing mistrust, our priority for now is preparedness and response in case the disease is tested positive."

On Tuesday, Britain issued updated travel advice to its citizens, saying it appeared "probable" that a person who died there succumbed to an Ebola-related death.

The US State Department, in its own update, also listed unofficial reports over the unexplained death of a person from in Tanzania from "probable Ebola".

Mwalimu acknowledged "the threat is real" in Tanzania as the country shares a boundary with the DRC.

She said screening for Ebola at airports and border crossings would be stepped up, and asked the international community to support Tanzania's efforts to defend itself against the disease.

Last month,the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a lengthy statement detailing how Tanzania had failed to provide information on suspected cases of Ebola in the country.

Tanzania then summoned the top WHO official in the country for an explanation.

In the rare rebuke, the UN health agency said it had not confirmed any case of Ebola in Tanzania, but raised concerns about the death of a person with suspected Ebola, and contacts who had since fallen ill.

It said despite repeat requests, it had not received further details from Tanzania over these suspect cases, including results from tests or investigations.

Mwalimu said there had been no need to send the samples to the WHO laboratory as they had tested negative.

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