Tanzania accused of hiding Ebola cases


The World Health Organization (WHO) has accused Malawi’s neigbhour, Tanzania, of refusing to provide details of Ebola cases recorded in the country.

In a statement on Saturday, the UN agency said it received reports on 10 September regarding the death of a person with suspected Ebola Virus disease (EVD) case in Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania.

It said the patient had been to Uganda, shown symptoms of Ebola in August, tested positive and died on 8 September.

“Identified contacts of the deceased were unofficially reported to be quarantined in various sites in the country,” the agency’s statement said.

On 12 September, WHO was also informed about a 27-year-old patient suspected of EVD admitted in a hospital of Dar es Salaam while On 19 September another suspected case was also reported.

However, despite repeated requests, WHO was provided with no further information from the country’s authorities on any of the three cases.

Tanzania told WHO that no case of Ebola was confirmed in the country with the Ministry of Health saying that two suspected cases were identified and both tested negative for EVD at a national laboratory.

“To date, the clinical details and the results of the investigation, including laboratory tests performed for differential diagnosis of these patients, have not been shared with WHO.

“The limited available official information from Tanzanian authorities represents a challenge for assessing the risk posed by this event,” the organization said in its statement.

Lawrence Gostin, faculty director at US-based Georgetown university’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, told the news site Al Jazeera that WHO is very reluctant to call out countries.

“The fact that they have done it in relation to Tanzania is an indication both of how worried they are about the outbreak and the violation of legal and ethical norms the Tanzanian government has committed by refusing to cooperate with WHO,” Gostin said.

An ongoing Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – which shares a border with Tanzania – has killed more than 2,000 people to date.

Gostin said the thought Ebola spilling over into other countries and spreading in those countries is terrifying.

“If it went to a large commercial centre like Dar es Salaam with international travel routes and a very dense population it’s hard to overestimate how serious a global health problem that would be.”

In the Saturday statement, WHO advised against the application of any restrictions of travel or trade to the United Republic of Tanzania in relation to the Ebola cases based on the currently available information.