East Africans are holding their breath as they await a declaration by the World Health Organisation that Uganda is now free of Ebola. That decision by WHO is expected on January 11, but that largely depends on the country continuing to report zero cases.
By press time, the country has not recorded a single case for more than a month. The WHO requires 42 consecutive days of no case for a country to be declared to have ended an epidemic.
Emmanuel Ainebyona, Ministry of Health spokesperson, said the country had recorded 36 consecutive days in which no case was detected.
WHO representative in Uganda, Dr Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, told The EastAfrican on Thursday that, if no new case is detected, the outbreak will be declared over on January 11.
“In accordance with WHO recommendations, the acute phase of an Ebola outbreak is considered over when no confirmed or probable cases are detected and the last confirmed case is discharged from the treatment unit for a period of 42 days,” he said.
Since the disease broke out in September last year, the country has registered 142 cases and 55 deaths.
Health authorities maintain that vigilance is still needed even when no new cases are being registered and that several measures are still in place to detect, treat and do surveillance.
“In the meantime, all prevention measures as earlier instituted by the government are still in place in the epicentre and around the country,” Ainebyona said.
Africa's top public health body, Africa CDC ,said on Thursday that the outbreak in Uganda was under control.
Africa CDC acting director Ahmed Ogwell Ouma told a briefing ‘‘it has taken 70 days to bring the outbreak under control with 142 confirmed cases and 55 deaths.’’ Vaccine trials against the Sudan strain of Ebola were ongoing, he said.
African health authorities have made concerted efforts to boost their readiness to respond to Ebola after a devastating outbreak of the Zaire strain in West Africa between 2014 and 2016 that killed 11,300 people, in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia
According to the Ugandan Health ministry, 3,600 health workers are still on standby countrywide, while district and community task forces are functional, and mortality surveillance is still ongoing.
The country is experiencing the rare strain of the Sudan variant, which currently has no vaccine.
In December 2022, the country received the first shipment of 1,200 trial vaccines to be evaluated in a clinical trial called the Solidarity Against Ebola, currently going on at the Makerere University Lung Institute led by Dr Bruce Kirenga, a senior lecturer and founding director of the Makerere University Lung Institute.