Health authorities have denied that an eight year-old Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) boy who showed Ebola-like signs and symptoms at Songwe border in Karonga suffered from the deadly disease.
Instead, Karonga district health officer (DHO) David Sibale said in an interview yesterday that the boy was diagnosed with malaria.
Despite the fact that the boy is still on malaria treatment, the DHO said blood samples have been taken to Central Reference Laboratory in Lilongwe to carry out an Ebola test.
Besides, Sibale said the contacts of the boy, who comes from Tulonge, South Kivu in DRC, have been listed and put on follow-up for 21 days or until sample results come out negative for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
He said the boy showed general body weakness, fever (that developed on November 18 2019) and vomiting, which developed on November 19 2019.
Sibale said on November 21 2019, a traveller reported to Immigration Department officials that the boy was vomiting within Songwe Border Post premises and the Immigration officials alerted port health officials who conducted a screening exercise.
He said: “On examination, the patient was weak with body temperature of 36.6 °Celcius. It was reported that the patient had vomited six times during the day and sought treatment at Lughano Private Clinic at the border where the following drugs were prescribed: LA, paracetamol and promethazine.
“Malaria Rapid Diagnostic Test [MRDT] was conducted and came out positive. The case is confirmed malaria based on MRDT results.
“Ebola needs to be investigated because of epidemiological linkage. All contacts to be listed and put on follow-up for 21 days or till sample results come out negative for EVD.”
The boy was referred to Karonga District Hospital and got discharged on Sunday. Thereafter, he was handed back to Immigration officials, according to Sibale.
A report on the case dated November 22 2019 shows that the patient left South Kivu in DRC in early November in the company of seven other family members, passing through Burundi and Tanzania, enroute to Songwe Border.
The report said the group joined about 80 other alleged asylum seekers and spent a night along the banks of Songwe River after being denied entry into Malawi.
Sibale has since appealed to border authorities to ensure that alleged asylum seekers gathered at Songwe Border Post are relocated immediately as they lack sanitary facilities at the site.
In a separate interview, Ministry of Health (MoH) spokesperson Joshua Malango said caution had to be taken on the boy, but assured that the country still has no case of Ebola.
Earlier this month, government stirred panic when it conducted an open small-scale field simulation exercise in Chitipa and Karonga to test the country’s preparedness for Ebola response.
Minister of Health Jappie Mhango said the simulation exercise showed great coordination among health staff and quick mobilisation of resources, but he bemoaned inadequate human resource in the health sector as a challenge.