Uganda's neighboring countries on high alert over Ebola outbreak
China Daily

File photo taken on March 21, 2021 shows a medical worker disinfecting a local Ebola treatment center in North Kivu province, northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). (Photo: Xinhua)

Kenya, Tanzania and South Sudan are on high alert following the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in neighboring country Uganda.

The countries in partnership with the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stepped up vigilance along their border point to ensure the disease that has been confirmed to be the deadly Sudan strain does not find its way into their territories.

Ahmed Ouma, the acting director of the Africa CDC, said the African Union specialized healthcare agency is working closely with the neighboring countries to ensure good surveillance mechanisms are in place for rapid detection of any Ebola case.

"Having a state of preparedness to ensure Ebola does not extend from Uganda to neighboring countries is good," he said at a virtual news briefing on Thursday.

The Kenyan government has urged all the county administrations to remain vigilant and enhance surveillance, especially at the borders, to prevent importation of the deadly disease.

This is in addition to activating rapid response teams to support identification of any suspected cases and make a prompt reporting, screening at-risk populations including travelers, truck drivers, bush meat handlers and healthcare workers as well as sensitizing the community to identify suspected cases.

The ministry of health also advised public members to take heightened precautions while visiting Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Tanzania's Ministry of Health has activated surveillance teams in high-risk areas and instructed its health officers at both regional and district council levels to strengthen health awareness, monitoring and surveillance.

Dr Godwin Mollel, the Tanzania's deputy minister of health, urged the health officers to ensure availability of necessary medical and protective equipment in their areas as well as strengthen the investigation of foreigners entering the country.

South Sudan has also increased vigilance along its borders and advised communities, especially those neighboring Uganda and DR Congo, to report any suspected Ebola case.

"We are very concerned about the Ebola outbreak in Uganda because we share the border. We have a lot of movement across the border, our families are in Uganda and Ugandans are on this side," Victoria Majur, the undersecretary in the Ministry of Health, said, as reported by Xinhua News Agency.

On Thursday, the Uganda Ministry of Health said seven cases of Ebola and one death had been confirmed.

Dr Kyobe Bbosa, the Ebola Incident Commander at the Uganda Ministry of Health, said an additional seven probable cases that died before the confirmation of the outbreak are being investigated.

"The epidemic appears to have started around the beginning of September when people started dying in a small village," he said.

Bbosa said they will deploy the infrastructure used for management of COVID-19 in handling the Ebola outbreak.

The World Health Organization said 43 contacts have been identified and 10 people suspected to have caught the virus are receiving treatment at the regional referral hospital in Mubende, the district where the disease was confirmed.

Mubende district sits along a busy road leading to the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are gold mines in the area, which attract people from different parts of Uganda, as well as other countries.

The WHO said the mobile nature of the population increases the risk of a possible spread of the virus.

Speaking at a virtual news briefing on Thursday, Dr Abdou Gueye, the regional emergency director with the WHO regional office for Africa, said the UN agency has deployed a technical team to Mubende district to support surveillance, infection prevention and control and the management of cases.

He said they are also assisting in the activation of surveillance structures in the neighboring districts and repurposing its country-based staff to bolster the response.

"We are acting quickly and decisively to draw in the reins on this outbreak. Our experts are already on the ground working with Uganda's experienced Ebola control teams to reinforce surveillance, diagnosis, treatment and preventive measures," he said.

"Africa's stronger homegrown emergency readiness is proving ever more crucial in tackling outbreaks such as Ebola".

While there are no therapeutics that specifically treat Sudan ebolavirus species, WHO said early identification of cases and treatment of symptoms greatly increases the chances of survival. Additionally, there is no approved vaccine for the Sudan strain of Ebola.