Kampala, Uganda | URN | Passengers traveling in and out of Uganda through Entebbe International Airport are ignorant about Novel Coronavirus, a new strain of zoonotic diseases that had not been previously identified in humans.
The deadly virus, said to have originated from the Chinese city of Wuhan has so far killed 213 people in China. Nearly 2,000 new cases were recorded in China in the past 24 hours, raising the worldwide total to nearly 9,800, according to Chinese and World Health Organization (WHO) data. The vast majority of the cases are inside China, while 98 cases have been confirmed in 18 other countries.
The countries where other cases were reported include, Tibet, Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, Malaysia, Macau, France, United States, South Korea, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Vietnam, Italy, India, the Philippines, Nepal, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Finland, a number of which are often visited by Ugandans and are also a source of traffic to Uganda.
The Ugandan Government has now advised travelers to avoid crowds, shaking hands and maintain good hygienic standards, to avoid the spread of the virus. A screening centre has been set up at Entebbe International Airport with rapid response teams on standby to refer all suspected cases to the Uganda Virus Research Institute and Entebbe Regional Referral Hospital.
According to James Eyul, the officer in charge of health and safety at Entebbe International Airport, medical staff at the airport are undergoing trainings to easily identify and handle coronavirus cases.
But several travellers that this publication talked to were unaware of the disease and the dangers it poses to humans. Amos Kasasa, a Ugandan found travelling to Guangzhou, a city in China indicated he doesn’t know of any outbreak that has far-reaching implications to Ugandans.
“My main issue is whether I can go to China for business. For as long as that is possible, I have nothing to worry about,” Kasasa says.
Evelyn Natukunda, another traveller says the spread of such virus cannot be a deterrence for travel. Natukunda says that for as long as she is not in contact with an infected person, there is no reason she would fear or be cautious.
Moses Muwanga, the Medical Superintendent at Entebbe Regional Referral Hospital says a team of seven health officers have also been dispatched to immediately handle any case that may arise within this period.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Experts believe that human-to-human transmission is possible with the latest outbreak.
There is no vaccine or treatment for the virus given the name CoV2019, which is spreading in a similar fashion as the 2003 SARS epidemic.
That outbreak killed 349 people in mainland China and another 299 in Hong Kong in 2002-2003, with cases in neighbouring Asian countries.
The health ministry has advised the public to avoid direct contact with persons who exhibit signs of infection and regularly wash hands with soap and water and avoid contact.
Individuals are also advised against touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands and seek medical help if one suspects that they might be infected.
Uganda has successfully defended against the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo and built a wealth of experience in handling hemorrhagic infections including Marburg.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday 30th, January 2020 declared the outbreak a global emergency after cases were discovered in more than a dozen countries.