Uganda has announced the end of its latest Ebola outbreak, nearly four months after it started.
In total, there were 142 confirmed cases and 22 probable cases registered, with 55 confirmed deaths, including those of seven healthcare workers.
“Uganda put a swift end to the Ebola outbreak by ramping up key control measures such as surveillance, contact tracing and infection, prevention and control,” said the country’s health minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng. “While we expanded our efforts to put a strong response in place across the nine affected districts, the magic bullet has been our communities who understood the importance of doing what was needed to end the outbreak, and took action,” she said in a statement.
The outbreak initially raised concern because it was the “Sudan strain” of Ebola, for which there are no approved vaccinations or therapeutics. The first case was confirmed on September 20th last in the central Mubende district.
This was the east African country’s fifth outbreak of this kind of Ebola. In a statement, the World Health Organisation said more than 4,000 people who came into contact with confirmed Ebola cases had been followed up on and monitored for the 21-day incubation period.
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Uganda’s final Ebola patient was released on November 30th. An end to an outbreak can be declared after 42 days with no cases.
“I congratulate Uganda for its robust and comprehensive response,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO. “Uganda has shown that Ebola can be defeated when the whole system works together, from having an alert system in place, to finding and caring for people affected and their contacts, to gaining the full participation of affected communities… Lessons learned and the systems put in place for this outbreak will protect Ugandans and others in the years ahead.”
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said: “With no vaccines and therapeutics, this was one of the most challenging Ebola outbreaks in the past five years, but Uganda stayed the course. Two months ago, it looked as if Ebola would cast a dark shadow over the country well into 2023, as the outbreak reached major cities such as Kampala and Jinja, but this win starts off the year on a note of great hope for Africa.”
Health authorities are maintaining their surveillance in Uganda and can respond quickly if any new cases are discovered, according to the WHO. In December, 5,000 doses of three potential vaccines arrived in the country, ready to be used for trials. “The next time the Sudan Ebola virus strikes we can reignite the robust co-operation between developers, donors and health authorities and dispatch the candidate vaccines,” said Dr Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, the WHO’s representative in Uganda.
Ebola is a viral haemorrhagic fever that spreads through bodily fluids. It can cause death from severe dehydration and organ failure. The deadliest recorded Ebola outbreak took place in west Africa between 2014 and 2016, and killed more than 11,000 people.