KAMPALA, 20 Sept 2022:
Uganda declared an Ebola outbreak today after confirming the first fatality from the highly contagious virus since 2019.
“The confirmed case is a 24-year-old male (who) presented with EVD (Ebola Virus Disease) symptoms and later succumbed,” the Ugandan health ministry tweeted.
The World Health Organisation said in a statement authorities detected a case of a “relatively rare Sudan strain” of the virus in the central Mubende district. “There are currently eight suspected cases who are receiving care in a health facility.”
The Uganda Virus Research Institute confirmed the death after testing a sample taken from the 24-year-old male.
It followed an investigation by the National Rapid Response team of six suspicious deaths in the district this month.
Diana Atwine, the health ministry’s permanent secretary, told reporters the country was prepared to tackle the outbreak.
Atwine said each district had a rapid response capacity. She asked health clinics receiving patients with symptoms to contact the district authorities for further investigations.
WHO Africa director Matshidiso Moeti said it was the first time in more than a decade that Uganda had recorded 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.
“Uganda is no stranger to effective Ebola control. Action has been taken to detect the virus (quickly) and we can bank on this knowledge to halt the spread.”
The WHO said there had been seven previous outbreaks of the Ebola Sudan strain, with four in Uganda and three in Sudan.
Uganda last reported an outbreak of Ebola Sudan in 2012.
In 2019, the country experienced an outbreak of Ebola Zaire.
The virus was imported from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo which was battling a large epidemic in its northeastern region.
WHO is helping Ugandan health authorities with the investigation and is deploying staff to the affected area.
The UN health body has dispatched supplies to support the care of patients and is sending a tent to isolate patients.
The health agency said ring vaccination of high-risk people with the Ervebo vaccine had been highly effective in controlling the spread of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere.
“(But) 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,” WHO said.
The virus was first detected in 1976 in the DRC, then called Zaire. It causes a severe, often fatal illness affecting humans and other primates.
It has six strains, three of which (Bundibugyo, Sudan, and Zaire) have previously caused large outbreaks.
The Sudan strain fatality rate has varied from 41% to 100% in past outbreaks, WHO said. “Early initiation of supportive treatment has been shown to significantly reduce deaths from Ebola.”