Africa

Uganda declares Ebola virus disease outbreak

A medical worker wears a protective suit as he prepares to administer Ebola patient care at The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) treatment center in Beni, North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo September 6, 2018. Picture taken September 6, 2018. REUTERS/Fiston Mahamba

Uganda health officials on Tuesday declared another outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease following the confirmation of a case of the Sudan ebolavirus confirmed in Mubende district in the central part of the country.

The case was confirmed after Uganda Virus Research Institute tested a sample taken from a 24-year-old man. This follows an investigation by the National Rapid Response team of six suspicious deaths that have occurred in the district this month. There are currently eight suspected cases who are receiving care in a health facility.

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Ebola is a severe, often fatal illness affecting humans and other primates. It has six different species, three of which (Bundibugyo, Sudan and Zaire) have previously caused large outbreaks.

The case fatality rates of the Sudan virus have varied from 41 per cent to 100 per cent in past outbreaks. Early initiation of supportive treatment has been shown to significantly reduce deaths from Ebola.

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Commenting on the situation, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said: “This is the first time in more than a decade that Uganda is recording an outbreak of Sudan ebolavirus. We are working closely with the national health authorities to investigate the source of this outbreak while supporting the efforts to quickly roll out effective control measures.

“Uganda is no stranger to effective Ebola control. Thanks to its expertise, action has been taken to quickly to detect the virus and we can bank on this knowledge to halt the spread of infections.”

There have been seven previous outbreaks of the Sudan ebolavirus, with four occurring in Uganda and three in Sudan. Uganda last reported an outbreak of Sudan ebolavirus in 2012. In 2019, the country experienced an outbreak of Zaire ebolavirus. The virus was imported from neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo which was battling a large epidemic in its north-eastern region.

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WHO is helping Ugandan health authorities with the investigation and is deploying staff to the affected area. The Organization has dispatched supplies to support the care of patients and is sending a tent that will be used to isolate patients.

While ring vaccination of high-risk people with Ervebo (rVSV-ZEBOV) vaccine has been highly effective in controlling the spread of Ebola in recent outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere, this vaccine has only been approved to protect against the Zaire virus. Another vaccine produced by Johnson and Johnson may be effective but has yet to be specifically tested against Ebola Sudan.

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