Ugandas Ebola deaths rise to 11 as 58 contacts being traced

Ebola treatment centre

A health worker wearing protective gear at an Ebola treatment facility.

Photo credit: File

11 people have died in the latest Ebola outbreak and at least two dozen others have been admitted to a health facility as government officials attempt to stop the disease from spreading Ugandan authorities say.

Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Health told Monitor that all the new cases and deaths happened in the central Uganda district of Mubende, the epicenter.

According to the statement released by the Ministry Friday afternoon, the cumulative confirmed cases now stand at 11 and the total deaths attributable to the outbreak also stand at 11 (confirmed and suspected).

A total of 58 contacts of the victims have been listed and they are being followed up by the response team.

Government officials in the Ebola response team have warned that cases of infections may continue to rise because of the delayed response and limited knowledge about the extent of the spread of the disease.

Health workers, who are leading the investigations into the root cause of the outbreak, have neither determined the source of the outbreak nor the index case, at least by Friday.

This, besides affecting the accuracy of contact tracing, means unsuspecting infected persons could be spreading the disease in communities.

The latest statistics from the Health ministry indicate that there are 11 confirmed cases of Ebola infection and three confirmed Ebola deaths. Around six of the probable deaths happened in communities.

Dr Henry Kyobe, the Ebola incident commander, said in an interview on Thursday that the disease seems to have started at the beginning of this month. But the outbreak was confirmed on Tuesday, meaning the disease has been spreading for weeks.

“There is a little bit of a time lag from the earlier cases and the time we confirmed and declared the outbreak. Ebola symptoms are similar to that of malaria and typhoid. The infections can be mistaken for a common illness,” he said in an interview on Thursday.

He added: “It was until the individual (first case) went to the major public facility (Mubende Regional Referral Hospital) that the disease was identified. The person moved from one private facility to another.”

In a state of flux

Describing the situation as fluid, Dr Kyobe said authorities don’t know “the extent and scope of it” but that they “think cases may rise.”

Already, around 43 contacts of Ebola victims have been listed and some have not yet been followed, according to information from the Health ministry.

The outbreak was triggered by the Sudan Ebola virus whose death risk ranges from 25 percent to 90 percent for infected persons, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). This is several times higher than the case fatality rate of Covid-19, which hovers around three percent.

“There is no evidence of the circulation of Sudan Ebola virus in Uganda. We last had an outbreak of the same type of Ebola 10 years ago, so we think this is a fresh spillover from the wild that is happening,” Dr Kyobe explained.

Besides the gaps in what the investigations team knows, there have also been reports of poor corporation in the communities.

The Mubende Resident District Commissioner, Ms Rosemary Byabashaija, said on Thursday that four Ebola suspects ran away from the health workers who had gone to evacuate them from the community on Wednesday.

The four were from the Madudu Sub-county in Mubende, the district where the outbreak was confirmed on Tuesday. They are the contacts of the 24-year-old man who passed on at Mubende Regional Referral Hospital on Monday.

“You can see that people don’t believe in the disease or are still ignorant about it, but we have decided to continue with sensitisation and we have formed the sub-county task force led by sub-county leaders to take a lead in sensitising the community after realising that people believe in their leaders,” Ms Byabashaija said.

The World Health Organization has sent a team to Uganda. A rapid response is imperative not only because of the nature of the disease, but also because Mubende is in the central region of Uganda and includes a busy road leading to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the WHO said.

While there is currently no cure for Ebola, early identification of cases and treatment of symptoms greatly increases the chances of survival. A vaccine which is highly effective against the Ebola-Zaire strain doesn’t provide cross protection against the Ebola-Sudan strain, the WHO said.

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