Rwanda was declared free of yellow fever; however, with the recent outbreak of the disease in Angola, concrete steps have to be taken in order to keep the country safe.
The remarks were made by the Minister for Health, Dr Agnes Binagwaho, during a news conference on Thursday aimed at addressing issues related to the outbreak of yellow fever, rift valley fever and Zika among other health outbreaks.
Two cases of yellow fever were ‘imported’ to Kenya last month by travelers from Angola. With such scenarios the government, the minister said, is taking necessary measures to prevent this from happening in Rwanda.
“Everybody who is entering Rwanda has to have a yellow fever vaccination card in order to ensure protection of citizens. We also advise Rwandans who are travelling outside the country to be vaccinated for their own protection and that of the country,” Binagwaho said.
The minister pointed out that the country shouldn’t wait for an outbreak to happen, that’s why precautionary measures have to be taken.
Travelers with vaccination cards are tested to measure the level of anti-bodies to ensure that the vaccine they received was of good quality.
Vectors, which in this case are mosquitoes, are also regularly captured and tested, she said.
Symptoms of yellow fever are similar to those of malaria; they include fever, headache, weakness in the body, and joint pains and some patients might later experience more complicated symptoms like bleeding, vomiting or defecating blood occur.
The other major sign is yellow eyes.
“There is also a disease that has emerged recently, it is known as the rift valley fever and studies about it are still ongoing. The disease affects animals and it’s very rare that humans are affected but what we are aiming at is to protect Rwandans,” she added.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Immigration directorate, the Ministry of Health is controlling the diseases through monitoring movement of people and animals, the minister added.
Dr Jean-Leonard Hakizimana, the head of preparedness and response unit at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, explained that there are three diseases in the region, namely yellow fever following the outbreak in Angola, rift valley fever reported in Uganda, and Zika, largely reported South America.
“We don’t have a risk for yellow fever within the country but we need to put measures in place earlier since we are dealing with diseases that can be transmitted,” Hakizimana said.
He explained that, for the rift valley fever, it’s mostly seen in livestock; therefore, it’s rare for it to affect humans unless they get into contact with the blood of an infected animal. People who deal with livestock and veterinaries are at high risk of getting it.
Rift valley fever was cited in Uganda, there were two cases but since March 10 there has not been any new case.
For yellow fever, vaccinations are done from Rwanda Biomedical Centre in Gikondo and the amount charged is Rwf6,000 but if it’s done at the airport it costs 40 dollars, travelers are advised to vaccinate at least a month before travel.
“Rwanda Biomedical Centre is working with Rwanda Agricultural Board to handle cases of rift valley fever. We are dealing with areas that are near Uganda mostly, they are doing monitoring in livestock and sensitization is also carried out among people,” he said.