Uganda Authorities repatriated the relatives of two people who died of Ebola in Uganda back to the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday, including a 3-year-old boy confirmed to be suffering from the disease, the Ugandan health minister said.
The cases marked the first time the virus has crossed an international border since the current outbreak began in Congo last August. The epidemic has already killed 1,390 people in eastern Congo.
The Uganda Ministry of Health confirmed Ebola infection in the Western Uganda district of Kasese on Thursday June 17th, 2019. The first confirmed case was a 5 year old Congolese child who traveled from the DRC with his family on 9th June 2019.
In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Health stated that Uganda remains in Ebola response mode to follow up the 27 contacts (of the family).
The viral disease spreads through contact with bodily fluids, causing hemorrhagic fever with severe vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding.
Uganda More prepared for Ebola
Certainly, Uganda is the best prepared country for such outbreaks. The country has repeatedly demonstrated high capabilities with its teams quickly responding and curbing such instances like the hemorrhaging Fever, the Ebola outbreak Kabale in Southwest Uganda in 2012 which the Ministry managed to eradicate within 10 days.
Experts noted that Uganda, which has been on high alert for possible spread of Ebola and has already vaccinated many frontline healthworkers, is relatively well prepared and should be able to limit the virus’ spread.
“The current cases in Uganda will be quickly contained but the failure to stop the current Ebola epidemic in DRC is simply tragic,” said Ian Jones, a professor virology at Britain’s Reading University.
Also, Uganda is well-equipped to handle an Ebola crisis and this capability is out of resilience from past instances of Ebola in Uganda.
In the wake of the outbreak, the U.S embassy has issued a statement indicating that: “The United States has strong confidence in the Ugandan government’s ability to respond to the outbreak in coordination with partners”.
“The U.S. government has invested heavily in Uganda’s preparations to manage Ebola through both technical and financial assistance, and we will continue to provide assistance to prevent the spread of the disease”.
The U.S health agency, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) said on Wednesday that Uganda has recently undertaken a simulation exercises to ready teams on transporting and handling Ebola specimen.
“CDC’s aim in Uganda is to build capacity for full-fledged, real time deployment and response in case of an outbreak,”
The Red Cross said it was scaling up efforts to contain the spread of the virus since it was detected in Uganda.
“This is a worrying development, but we have been preparing for this day for months now,” Robert Kwesiga, Uganda Red Cross Secretary General, said in a statement Wednesday.
What is being done to stop Ebola in Uganda
On Thursday, Uganda banned public gatherings in the Kasese district where the family crossed the border. Hand washing facilities have been put in place, with washing materials like JIK (disinfectant) and soap. There’s no shaking of hands, people just wave at each other. At the border, health workers checked lines of people and isolate one child with a raised temperature. Uganda has already vaccinated many frontline health workers and is relatively well prepared to contain the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) sent 3,500 doses of a Merck experimental vaccine to Uganda this week, following 4,700 initial doses.
Monitoring and vaccination had been stepped up, but there had been “no panic reaction” so far to the cases there.
The WHO has said it will reconvene an emergency committee on Friday to decide whether the outbreak is an international public health emergency and how to manage it. For the committee to make the emergency call, it must determine that the epidemic “carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border and may require immediate international action”.
The emergency committee had in October and again in April held off doing this, partly because the virus remained contained in one part of DRC. The DRC has struggled to contain the outbreak, the tenth in the country since the disease was identified in 1976. Efforts have been hampered both by militia attacks on treatment centres and by the hostility of some local people to the medical teams.
Are Tourist safe from Ebola in Uganda
Tourism remains safe in Uganda but industry stakeholders and government officials are worried about the PR effects this news has on the global media and the travel and tourism industry. Everyone entering Uganda from DRC and South Sudan will be screened for Ebola.
There is no threat for tourists traveling currently in Uganda. If you have a safari booked or are planning one to Uganda, you shouldn’t consider cancelling or putting off those plans yet. The widely publicized Ebola cases this week have no direct chance to become a threat to any visitor according to the Uganda Tourism Board. The situation seems to be isolated according to all indications in this case under control. Uganda had been preparing for this for months and vaccinated 4700 health professionals in 165 health centers.