Health experts on Tuesday urged Uganda to focus on preventing and controlling the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, noting that there is no vaccine against the rare Sudan strain that has been confirmed in the country.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health confirmed an Ebola outbreak in the country after the virus was detected in Mubende, central Uganda. One death was confirmed while six other deaths are suspected to have been caused by Ebola, but remain unverified.
Bayo Fatunmbi, head of disease prevention and control at the World Health Organization office in Uganda, told reporters that the Sudan strain is rare and had only occurred in Sudan in 1976 and in Uganda in 2011.
“We have done something before in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but we find that the vaccination that worked with the Zaire virus [strain] will not be useful for this particular Sudan strain,” he said. He added that another type of vaccine is currently being tested.
Diana Atwine, Uganda’s permanent secretary at the Health ministry, said that while the country has the vaccine for the Zaire strain, there is no vaccine for the Sudan strain.
She said a team of epidemiologists has been sent to Mubende to investigate the source of the index case, a 24-year-old male who died on Monday.
“There is no need to panic at all because Uganda is well known for handling epidemics. We have built capacity, and we want to assure the public that we shall contain this epidemic,” Ms Atwine said.
She added that Uganda is working with partners like the WHO to contain the spread of the deadly disease.
The Ebola virus is highly contagious and causes various symptoms, including fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, generalised pain or malaise, and in some cases, internal and external bleeding. According to the WHO, the fatality rate for those who contract Ebola ranges from 50 percent to 89 percent, depending on the viral sub-type.