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DRC’s Ebola outbreak spreads to Uganda

One case of the Ebola virus has been confirmed in Uganda, the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday. The patient is a 5-year-old boy who has been admitted to Bwera hospital’s isolation unit. He travelled from the Democratic Republic of Congo with his family on June 9, and sought medical care in Bwera.

Two relatives of the patient have exhibited symptoms consistent with Ebola, and are being tested for the virus. Results of these tests will be known tomorrow, said Uganda’s ministry of health.

“All the other Congolese family members have been identified and are in isolation at Bwera hospital,” said a spokesperson for the ministry, speaking on national television. “The ministry of health re-echoes its call on the general public to cooperate with immigration, health and security officials to ensure effective screening at all entry points to prevent further spread of Ebola to other parts of the country.”

The ministry of health, along with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centre for Disease Control, has dispatched a rapid response team to Kasese in western Uganda to help deal with the outbreak. This response will include administering vaccines to all contacts of infected patients to prevent new infections.

The WHO said: “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 4 700 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 recognising symptoms of the disease. Ebola Treatment Units are in place.”

The north-eastern region of Neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo has been battling to control an Ebola outbreak since August 1 2018. More than 2 000 infections have been confirmed since then, including 1 390 deaths. The response has been hampered by conflict and widespread distrust of health professionals in the area, making it difficult for responders to effectively administer vaccines.

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Simon Allison
Simon Allison
Simon Allison is the Africa editor of the Mail & Guardian, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Continent. He is a 2021 Young Africa Leadership Initiative fellow.

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