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WHO Declares Ebola Outbreak In Uganda; Found Sudan Strain

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Health authorities and World Health Organization (WHO) declare an outbreak of Ebola after confirming a case of the relatively rare Sudan strain in Mubende district in central Uganda.

The Uganda Virus Research Institute confirmed the case after a 24-year-old male showed symptoms. The test was conducted after the National Rapid Response team investigated six suspicious deaths that have occurred in the district this month. Presently, eight suspected cases are under treatment in a health facility.

At a news conference, Diana Atwine, the health ministry’s permanent secretary, said, “We want to inform the country that we have an outbreak of Ebola which we confirmed yesterday”.

The patient had high fever, diarrhoea and abdominal pains and was vomiting blood. He was initially treated for malaria.

Authorities moving with actions

Talking about the situation and preventive actions taken in this regard, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa said, “This is the first time in more than a decade that Uganda is recording the Ebola Sudan strain. 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”.

He further added, “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.”

Tracing the origins

Africa has witnessed seven outbreaks of the Ebola Sudan strain in the past. Four occurred in Uganda and three in Sudan, with Uganda’s last outbreak seen in 2012. However, as recent as 2019, the country witnessed another outbreak but that of Ebola Zaire.

The Ebola virus came here from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo which was battling a large epidemic in its north-eastern region.

Humans and other primates can contract the severe, frequently fatal disease known as Ebola. There are six different strains of it, three of which (Bundibugyo, Sudan, and Zaire) have in the past led to significant epidemics. In previous outbreaks, the Sudan strain’s case fatality rates ranged from 41% to 100%. Early commencement of supportive care has been found to drastically lower Ebola-related deaths.

With Ugandan health authorities WHO is conducting investigations and deploying its staff in the affected areas. As part of its initiatives in the region, global public health organization has dispatched supplies to support the care of patients and is sending a tent that will be used to isolate patients. According to the WHO, 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 strain. Another vaccine produced by Johnson and Johnson may be effective but has yet to be specifically tested against the Sudan strain.

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