Tag Archives: Congo

First confirmed Ebola case in Uganda

Officials have now confirmed the first case of Ebola in Uganda since the present outbreak of the contagious disease in the Congo.

The confirmed case is a 5-year-old child from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who travelled with his family on 9th June 2019. The child and his family entered the country through Bwera Border post and sought medical care at Kagando hospital where health workers identified Ebola as a possible cause of illness. The child was transferred to Bwera Ebola Treatment Unit for management. The confirmation was made today by the Uganda Virus Institute (UVRI). The child is under care and receiving supportive treatment at Bwera ETU, and contacts are being monitored.

The Ministry of Health and WHO have dispatched a Rapid Response Team to Kasese to identify other people who may be at risk, and ensure they are monitored and provided with care if they also become ill. Uganda has previous experience managing Ebola outbreaks. In preparation for a possible imported case during the current outbreak in DRC, Uganda has vaccinated nearly 4700 health workers in 165 health facilities (including in the facility where the child is being cared for); disease monitoring has been intensified; and health workers trained on recognizing symptoms of the disease. Ebola Treatment Units are in place.

In response to this case, the Ministry is intensifying community education, psychosocial support and will undertake vaccination for those who have come into contact with the patient and at-risk health workers who were not previously vaccinated.

There also remain questions about how effective the vaccine is. It seems to work to protect from ebola, but only if you haven’t already become infected. Since the vaccine has not been fully tested, the real scientific questions remain.

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Ebola epidemic continues to grow

The Ebola epidemic in Africa has continued to grow in the past year, with indications that it is accelerating.

The number of Ebola cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has doubled in just over two months and has now passed 2,000, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

An estimated 2,008 people have been infected with Ebola in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces since the start of the outbreak in late July 2018, and 1,346 of those individuals have died. The numbers represent a rapid escalation of the crisis since the outbreak passed the 1,000-case mark on 24 March (see ‘Escalating crisis’).

Part of the cause for the disease’s spread is political tensions. The Congo government and the people in North Kivu have been in conflict:

Violence has plagued North Kivu for decades, and the region is home to dozens of armed groups and communities who oppose the government. Political tensions grew late last year during elections, when the [Congo’s] former president banned more than a million people in North Kivu from voting because of Ebola. The measure led many people to suspect that the outbreak was a political invention to marginalize the opposition, and not a real disease.

But authorities cannot tackle Ebola if people mistrust their intentions. Health workers must convince people to send their family members to treatment centres, for instance, and persuade people to receive an experimental Ebola vaccine. Despite continuous outreach, many people remain suspicious of Ebola responders — who are often not from the region — and a small fraction assault health workers.

If things don’t change, none of this will end well, for anyone.

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