Confirmed spread of Ebola in Uganda triggers health scare

Monday, September 26th, 2022 08:00 | By
An Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU). PHOTO/Courtesy
An Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU). PHOTO/Courtesy

Confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) have been reported in Kampala, Kisoro, Kakumiro, Mubende, and Kyegegwa districts as the disease spreads, information from the response team indicates.

Health authorities have urged the public to adhere to preventive measures and report people with symptoms, saying samples from the suspected cases have been taken to Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) for testing.

According to the Health Ministry, there were 31 confirmed and suspected cases as of Saturday, a sharp spike from the seven cases registered on Tuesday when the outbreak was confirmed. The total confirmed and suspected Ebola deaths has also increased exponentially from one to 19.

Dr Henry Kyobe, the Ebola incident commander, said the majority of the cases are in Mubende, the epicentre. The sub-counties of Madudu, Kiruuma, and Kasambya, have reported one or more confirmed and or suspected cases of Ebola.

In Kyegegwa, at least six suspected cases, one suspected Ebola death and 20 contacts of victims have been listed and are being followed.

While in Kisoro, a district 413km away from Mubende, two suspected cases have been reported, which if confirmed will mean the epidemic could have spread widely. Perhaps more troubling is the one suspected Ebola death in Kampala, a district more than 140km from Mubende with a huge day and night population.

Dr Daniel Okello, the head of public health services at the Kampala Capital City Authority, said the sample from the person suspected to have died of Ebola in Kansanga has been taken to UVRI for testing.

Dr Kyobe, who is also the deputy director of Uganda National Institute of Public Health (UNIPH) in the Health ministry, and Dr Issa Makumbi, the director of the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC), warned that cases may continue to rise if communities do not cooperate with health workers.

Mubende District, the epicentre, lies on a major highway that leads into Kampala from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). It has busy trading places and the gold mine on one side is very close to where the epicentre is, according to Dr Kyobe. Dr Makumbi said there was a delayed response because health authorities didn’t expect the outbreak to happen in Mubende. With hindsight, he noted that private facilities were not very vigilant. The outbreak is suspected to have occurred around the start of September, meaning the disease was detected and the outbreak confirmed after around two weeks when it was spreading.

The UNIPH deputy director warned that Ebola infections may double if the response is not well coordinated.

“The public should report anybody with the signs. There is a toll-free number—0800-100-066—and we can come and pick the person to curb the spread,” he said.                                                           - Agencies

The outbreak was confirmed about one month after North Kivu—the part of the DR Congo bordering Uganda—reported an outbreak of Ebola. Mubende is more than 520 kilometres from North Kivu.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the case in North Kivu was genetically linked to “the 2018-2020 outbreak in North Kivu, Ituri and South Kivu provinces (Ebola Zaire strain) and not a new spillover event.”

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