Kenya: A 10-year-old Liberian pupil in Nakuru Thursday tested negative for Ebola but the family’s entry into the country exposed serious security lapses at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
Despite a standing entry ban for people from Ebola hit West African countries in all ports in Kenya, the boy and his mother are reported to have been cleared at JKIA after flying in from Burundi even after they had earlier been denied entry at the same airport.
The pupil at a private school in the Rift Valley had been referred to the hospital on Wednesday evening after showing signs associated with Ebola.
The minor, who had been accompanied by the school nurse, had headache, fever and had vomited at the school’s dispensary.
However, Alphaxard Kemboi, the nursing officer in charge at the provincial hospital, said samples sent to the Kenya Medical Research Institute showed the child to be free of the virus.
According to Dr Kemboi, the mother and the 10-year-old flew into the country nine days ago through JKIA but were denied entry following a ban on passengers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
However, he claimed they re-entered the country on Monday via Burundi where they landed at JKIA before proceeding to Nakuru.
“If proper screening was conducted at JKIA, the boy could easily have been identified as having been in Liberia,” he said.
Kenya banned passengers from Ebola-hit countries in West Africa 16 days ago, a measure supposed to apply to anyone who had travelled through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“In the interest of public health, the Government has decided to temporarily suspend entry into Kenya of passengers travelling from or through the three West African countries affected namely Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia,” Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia had said when placing the ban.
The pupil’s headmaster Toby Spence said he reported back to school on Tuesday without showing any symptoms.
Mr Spence said immediately he complained of fever, he was rushed to Valley Hospital and later transferred to the Rift Valley Provincial Hospital.
By Thursday, the child was still being treated for a bacterial infection and the doctors said his life was not in danger.
Kemboi said the family’s movements points to a possible lapse of security at the entry point, which should have captured passport details indicating the duo were Liberians, had recently been in Liberia and had earlier been denied entry into Kenya.
The health scare came barely hours after a senior health official reassured Kenyans that surveillance systems put in place at entry points were working.
Following another Ebola scare on Wednesday at JKIA, Dr Nicholas Muraguri, the director of medical services, had reassured Kenyans that stringent measures to keep Ebola out of the country were still in place.
The assurance followed an evening of panic at JKIA after a 37-year-old passenger on flight KQ 550 from Lubumbashi in DR Congo to Nairobi started started vomiting while mid-air.
Dr Muraguri said the Government and other collaborating agencies will keep up the surveillance as long as the threat of Ebola from affected countries remains.
The head of medical services gave the assurance as the spread of the disease was reported on Wednesday to have gathered new pace in the last few days.
“As of this week, we are reporting 3,500 cases confirmed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and more than 1,900 deaths — and the outbreak is rising,” WHO chief Margaret Chan said in a media address on Wednesday in Washington.
By Mercy Kahenda, The Standard