The confirmation by Ugandan health authorities that a little boy died of Ebola after arriving from the Democratic Republic of Congo is grave news that calls for extra vigilance to stop the spread of the deadly virus.
This is the first time the epidemic, which has been raging in the Congo for nearly a year, has crossed the border as three cases were confirmed in Uganda.
The Ugandan health professionals’ response is commendable and reassuring.
They moved swiftly, isolating other members of the bereaved family for treatment. Eight more people who had been in contact with them are also being traced, this being a highly contagious disease.
To contain the epidemic, the government has banned mass gatherings, including market days and prayer meetings, in the border region.
In collaboration with the World Health Organisation, the Health ministry has dispatched a rapid response team to tackle this grave threat. Nearly 5,000 health workers have also been vaccinated against the disease.
The occurrence in Uganda is simply too close to call for Kenya, considering the increased daily movement of people across the common border.
This is a wake-up call to the Kenyan authorities, especially at the Busia and Malaba border posts, to also up their vigilance to contain the epidemic.
Instructively, the Congo outbreak has claimed more than 1,300 lives since it began last year.
Increased surveillance and scrutiny are, therefore, crucial. Checks must be intensified at the border posts with adequate contingency plans for swift responses to any suspected cases.
Until the threat in Uganda is totally brought under control, health personnel in the border region of Kenya must be mobilised and the capacity to deal with any deadly eventualities enhanced.