Medical Content

Ebola outbreak in Uganda

Nov 15, 2022

September 2022 saw the beginning of an ebola outbreak in the African nation of Uganda. The causal species of this outbreak was noted to be the Sudan ebolavirus (SUDV). An often-fatal illness, it can be controlled by starting patient care early. Currently, no vaccines are approved to prevent the disease, though trials continue for candidate vaccines.1

The number of confirmed cases crossed 136 on the 7th of November along with 53 deaths. Contacts are under surveillance around the country (1386 by the last count) to ensure that the outbreak can be controlled. Follow-up rates are high at 92%, indicating that people are working hard to ensure the spread can be contained at the earliest.2

To control the outbreak, the government has shut down schools. This comes shortly on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced school shutdowns for two years. Vaccine development is fully underway as IAVI and Merck both plan to start large-scale clinical trials for their candidate vaccine soon. However, according to some experts, a vaccine might not be needed to control the outbreak; robust public health measures might be enough, as has been the case in previous Ebola outbreaks.3

Ebola was first discovered in 1976 due to two hemorrhagic fever outbreaks in central Africa. Ebola virus caused both outbreaks, but different strains were involved, Zaire and Sudan ebolavirus. In the following years, four more strains were discovered.4

The viral infection usually starts off with sudden fever, muscle weakness, sore throat, and a muscle pain. This can quickly lead to more serious symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and internal hemorrhaging. The symptoms can be easily confused with malaria and typhoid. Typically, the incubation period lasts from two days to three weeks. The virus spreads via body fluid contact.5

The current outbreak is a greater worry than usual because it has hit a densely-populated part of the country, in Kampala, making it difficult to enforce containment measures. However, it is nowhere near the largest Ebola outbreak ever, reported in West Africa from December 2013 to 2016. It ended up killing around 11,000 people.5

Uganda has a good record in containing the Ebola virus, with previous outbreaks dealt with in 2012 (Sudan ebolavirus) and 2019 (Zaire ebolavirus).1

References

  1. Ebola outbreak 2022 - Uganda [Internet]. [cited 2022 Nov 11]. Available from: https://www.who.int/emergencies/situations/ebola-uganda-2022
  2. Ebola disease caused by Sudan ebolavirus – Uganda [Internet]. [cited 2022 Nov 11]. Available from: https://www.who.int/emergencies/disease-outbreak-news/item/2022-DON423
  3. Barnhart M. Uganda ends school year early as it tries to contain growing Ebola outbreak. NPR [Internet]. 2022 Nov 10 [cited 2022 Nov 11]; Available from: https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2022/11/10/1135619132/uganda-ends-school-year-early-as-it-tries-to-contain-growing-ebola-outbreak
  4. What do we know about the outbreak of Ebola in Uganda so far? [Internet]. [cited 2022 Nov 11]. Available from: https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/what-we-know-about-outbreak-ebola-uganda-so-far
  5. What is Ebola and why is Uganda’s outbreak so serious? BBC News [Internet]. 2022 Sep 30 [cited 2022 Nov 11]; Available from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-63080543

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