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Uganda declares an Ebola outbreak after confirming the death of a patient

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  • Ugandan health authorities declared an Ebola outbreak on Tuesday after confirming a case in the Mubende district (center), where a 24-year-old man died of the disease caused by the virus.

The case corresponds to the “relatively exceptional strain of Sudan”, specified the African office of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Currently, there are eight suspected cases receiving care at a health facility,” the WHO said in a statement.

The Uganda Virus Research Institute confirmed the case after testing a sample taken from the 24-year-old man and following an investigation of six suspicious deaths that occurred in the district this month.

At a press conference in Kampala, the permanent secretary of the Ugandan Ministry of Health, Diana Atwini, explained that at least six people in the same area died this month after suffering from a “strange disease”.

However, Ella Atwini assured that the country is prepared to tackle the outbreak, just as she has done in the past.

“The good thing is that each district has a rapid response (capacity), so every clinic in that area that receives patients with symptoms should contact the authorities of the district, so that we can apply the investigation and isolation measures,” added the permanent secretary.

For her part, the director of the WHO for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, affirmed that “this is the first time in more than a decade that Uganda registers the Ebola strain from Sudan.”

“We are working closely with national health authorities to investigate the origin of this outbreak, while supporting efforts to rapidly implement effective control measures,” Moeti said in the statement to GLM.

The head of the WHO stressed that “Uganda is no stranger to effective control of Ebola” and that, “thanks to its experience, measures have been taken to detect the virus quickly” and that knowledge can be relied on to “stop the spread of infections.

There have been seven previous outbreaks of the Ebola strain from Sudan, four in Uganda and three in Sudan, the UN agency said.

Uganda last reported an Ebola outbreak of the Sudan strain in 2012.

In 2019, the country experienced an outbreak of the Zairean strain in which the virus was imported from the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which was then battling a large epidemic in its northeastern region.

WHO is assisting the Ugandan health authorities with the investigation and deploying staff to the affected area, while dispatching supplies to support patient care and sending a tent to isolate patients.

According to the organization, while ring vaccination of high-risk people with the Ervebo (rVSV-ZEBOV) vaccine has been highly effective in controlling the spread of Ebola in recent outbreaks in the DRC and elsewhere, this vaccine is only it has been approved to protect against the Zaire strain.

Another vaccine produced by the pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson may be effective, but has not yet been tested specifically against the Sudanese strain.

Discovered in 1976 in the DRC – then called Zaire – Ebola is a serious, often fatal disease that affects humans and other primates and is transmitted by direct contact with the blood and body fluids of infected people or animals.

This fever causes severe bleeding and its first symptoms are sudden and high fever, severe weakness, and muscle, head and throat pain, as well as vomiting.

It has six different strains, three of which (Bundibugyo, Sudan and Zaire) have previously caused major epidemics, such as the one that hit West Africa from 2014 to 2016, when 11,300 people died and there were more than 28,500 cases, although those figures -according to the WHO- may be conservative.

Case-fatality rates for the Sudan strain have ranged from 41% to 100% in previous outbreaks, although early initiation of supportive treatment has been shown to significantly reduce Ebola deaths, according to the WHO.


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