Uganda officials will now focus on building a robust health system with increased surveillance to detect and manage future epidemics early. This is after the World Health Organisation announced the country was Ebola free after going 42 days without recording a new case of the disease and having no patients in treatment centres or active contacts under monitoring.
The 42 days are two incubation cycles of the virus.
“I now confirm that all transmission chains have been fully interrupted and take this opportunity to declare that the outbreak is over, and Uganda is now free of active Ebola transmission,” Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng said Wednesday during a ceremony in Mubende district.
The country registered 55 deaths and 142 cases of the Ebola virus disease since the outbreak in September 2022.
Dr Aceng said her ministry’s priority will shift to preparing the health sector to manage any future outbreaks, including research in vaccines, diagnosis, therapeutics, ecological studies, Ebola virus disease risk mapping and supporting the Ebola virus disease capacity building within East Africa.
The government also plans to introduce mobile labs, and establish emergency clinical teams across the country.
Experts that worked closely to combat the outbreak say challenges notwithstanding, the epidemic leaves Uganda better prepared, albeit with much work and investment still required.
For example, Uganda has built and equipped 353-bed capacity treatment units in Mubende, Madudu, Kassanda, Mulago and Entebbe, trained over 2,339 health workers from both public and private facilities in infection prevention and control and enhanced surveillance systems.
During a press conference on Thursday, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus lauded Uganda for using proven public health tools to successfully contain the outbreak even in the absence of a vaccine for the Sudan strain.
“This outbreak has ended but WHO’s commitment to Uganda has not. We remain committed to strengthening Uganda’s health system as part of its journey towards universal health coverage,” he said.