Ebola: Uganda sends 20 specialists to districts along DR Congo border

Wednesday August 8 2018

WHO, ebola, mbandaka

Nurses working with the WHO prepare to administer an experimental vaccine following an Ebola outbreak in northwestern Mbandaka, DR Congo on May 21, 2018. DRC announced fresh Ebola outbreak on August 1 in its eastern region. AFP PHOTO | JUNIOR KANNAH  

By EVELYN LIRRI
More by this Author
By AFP
More by this Author

Uganda has sent a team of 20 doctors to its border districts with the Democratic Republic of Congo after Ebola resurfaced in the Congo eastern region.

According to the Health Minister Dr Ruth Aceng, the epidemiologists will monitor the situation and screen travellers in order to prevent the spread of the deadly disease in Uganda.

“Since the outbreak was announced, we have had intense discussions with our counterparts in DRC and we have now deployed 20 epidemiologists in Kasese and five other neighbouring districts,” said Dr Aceng.

She said the doctors will remain there until the outbreak is declared over.

DRC announced last Wednesday a new outbreak barely a week after the Ebola epidemic that killed 33 people in northwestern Mbandaka city was declared over.

Death toll

In the latest outbreak in Beni, North Kivu Province, which borders Uganda and Rwanda, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said 36 people have died, nine of them confirmed cases and 27 probable.

On Tuesday, DRC Health ministry said there are 43 cases of haemorrhagic fever that have been reported in Beni, including 16 confirmed and 27 probable. The ministry added that 46 suspected cases are under investigation.

Almost 1,000 people who have had "contact" with the virus have been registered in health zones under surveillance, it said.

Targeted vaccinations are expected to begin on Wednesday. WHO has provided the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine which was used in Mbandaka and during the West African pandemic. Data from the trials of the unlicensed vaccine suggests it was safe and effective, and thousands of frontline health workers received the jab.

"Twelve teams of vaccinators will be deployed in different affected areas," the ministry said, adding that teams had arrived in Beni.

The vaccine has to be kept at extremely cold temperatures, which adds to the challenge of distributing it in poor, hot countries.

Security

The WHO has said the "deterioration of the security situation" in affected area was expected to hinder the response to the outbreak.

The Red Cross announced that it was rushing a "multidisciplinary" team of 19 people to Beni.

North Kivu is a conflict zone and holds over one million displaced people. About 1,000 civilians have been killed in Beni since 2014 in clashes between armed rebels and government soldiers.

According to Dr Aceng, frequent cross-border movements in the region poses a great risk to the spread of the disease.

Beni lies about 100km from the Ugandan border.

“We shall continue with our surveillance in these districts to ensure we don’t have any outbreak emerging when we are not aware,” she added.

Uganda has suffered five Ebola outbreaks the last being in 2012 that killed four people.

In the vast DRC, the outbreak is the tenth since 1976, when the virus was discovered near its Ebola river in the north.

The Ebola virus causes haemorrhagic fever, vomiting and diarrhoea and is spread through direct contact with body fluids.

It is believed to be transported long distances by bats and can find its way into bush meat sold at local markets and eaten.

The worst Ebola outbreak was in West Africa where more than 11,300 people died of the epidemic from 2013 to 2016 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Advertisement