Uganda races to contain deadly Ebola outbreak

NAIROBI, Kenya – An outbreak of Ebola in Uganda, caused by a strain of the virus with no approved vaccine or treatment, is sparking fear across East Africa, as authorities race to contain the virus that has caused 35 confirmed infections and 7 deaths.

Scientists and health officials are now pushing to start clinical trials for two experimental vaccines to protect against this strain, which originated in Sudan in 1976. Although a vaccine is available. Ebola is relatively new and powerful, they offer no protection from the Sudan strain – complicated efforts to quickly quell the epidemic before it overburdens the nation’s fragile health care system.

In central Uganda, where cases have been reported, at least six health workers have contracted the virus, prompting some of their colleagues to ask to move elsewhere. Parents, concerned their children will contract the highly contagious virus, are pulling them out of school. And in a country that has faced multiple Ebola outbreaks since it reported its first case in 2000, concerns persist that another fast-spreading virus could lead to restrictions that would devastating an economy still reeling from the shutdown of the coronavirus.

Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, the World Health Organization’s representative in Uganda, said in a phone interview: “The whole situation worries me very much.

With the virus spreading to the fourth county on Friday and affecting an area more than 75 miles in radius, “we are at a disadvantage,” he said.

Ebola is a highly contagious disease, transmitted by contact with sick or dead people or animals, causing fever, fatigue, diarrhea, and internal and external bleeding. The 2014-16 outbreak in West Africa was the deadliest Ebola outbreak, killing more than 11,300 people, followed by a 2018 outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo that killed 2,280.

So far, Ugandan officials have ruled out issuing a stay-at-home ban or curfew, or restricting movement in schools, markets or houses of worship.

“There is no need to worry, panic, restrict movement or unnecessarily close public places,” President Yoweri Museveni speak after a televised speech this week. Museveni, who introduced strict lockdown measures during the coronavirus outbreak two years ago, said his country has the potential to put the Ebola virus on its heels.

Uganda is also working with neighboring countries, including Rwanda and Kenyaincreased vigilance at land borders and airports.

The latest outbreak in Uganda became public on September 20, when health officials announced they had confirmed a case in a 24-year-old man hospitalized in Mubende district, about 90 miles from the capital Kampala. kilometer.

The patient developed symptoms – including high fever and bleeding in his eyes – as early as September 11, and has visited multiple clinics seeking help. He was eventually quarantined and hospitalized on September 15, but died 5 days later.

In his televised address, Mr. Museveni said patients said people with similar symptoms from his village had also died.

The delay in identifying and tracing the first human case, coupled with the fact that this case was reported in a county adjacent to a key highway, has raised concerns that the virus has spread. to major urban centers and neighboring countries. WHO has speak there are at least 18 more possible deaths and 19 more infections linked to the current outbreak.

The Sudan strain was last discovered by Uganda in 2012. Infected people cannot spread the virus until symptoms appear, which can come after an incubation period of two to 21 days.

Currently available vaccines – such as the Ervebo injectable vaccine, which has proven successful in tackling the Zaire strain in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo – do not protect against the Sudan strain.

But experts hope that will change soon.

Mr. Yonas said at least six vaccine candidates are at different stages of development that could protect against the Sudan strain. Two of those vaccines could enter clinical trials in Uganda in the coming weeks after facing regulatory and ethical reviews from the Ugandan government.

Two potentially ahead vaccines are being developed by the Washington-based Sabin Vaccine Institute and the University of Oxford. If approved, the single-dose Sabin vaccine will most likely be the first to enter the trial. As new evidence emerges about the remaining vaccine candidates, WHO said it will work with an independent panel of experts to help assess their suitability.

Currently, health officials and many NGOs are responding to the crisis by training medical staff, setting up new isolation units and enabling more laboratories to test.

More than 400 people have been in contact with infected people has also been traced successfully. Two patients also discharge from hospital at the end of Friday, according to WHO

Oluma Jacob, a health adviser with Medical Teams International, an aid group responding to the outbreak, said officials have also begun multiple outreach campaigns to educate the public on how to protect themselves. , do not stigmatize infected people and report those with symptoms.

This was done, he said, because “there was fear and a lot of panic in the community” when the first cases were reported in central Uganda.

That panic was evident among parents in the Mubende district, where the first case was discovered.

Nkwesiga Maxim, principal of St. Kizito Madudu of Mubende, said more than half of the school’s students did not attend class.

“We have so much fear,” he said.

Frontline medical workers responded to his sentiments, who say that the lack of adequate compensation and protection – especially for medical interns – is putting their lives at risk. dangerous. Museveni said six medical staff were infected including four doctors, an anesthesiologist and a medical student. On Saturday, Uganda’s Minister of Health announced that one of the doctors died.

Luswata Herbert, general secretary of the Uganda Medical Association, said that if the government does not fix the situation quickly, “medical staff will refuse to care for patients because they fear for their lives and interests. their”.

Musinguzi Blanshe Reporting contributions from Kampala, Uganda.


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