Unsung Heroes in Marburg, Ebola War [editorial]

Uganda has been declared free of Marburg fever, which broke out in September, killing one health worker attached to Mengo hospital.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declaration early this week comes after three weeks without a new case being reported. This good news has gone almost unnoticed because it was widely anticipated given it has been more than one month since the only affected patient died on September 8.

Coming at a time Ebola is ravaging parts of West Africa, there was widespread panic when Marburg was reported. But thanks to efforts by the ministry of Health, individual health workers involved, and WHO, the haemorrhagic fever is now under control.

Marburg is just as deadly as Ebola, which has so far killed as many as 5,000 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, and continues to wreak havoc in West Africa. Therefore, mishandling it could easily have had serious repercussions.

It helps that Uganda has obtained vital experience in dealing with previous outbreaks of Ebola and Marburg. Ever since Ebola first broke out in Uganda in 2000, sufficient capacity has been built to deal with future outbreaks. For instance, while tests had to be confirmed abroad at the time, today it is done at the Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe.

But this experience has come at a heavy price. Many health workers have had to put themselves in harm’s way in order to save other people. Because of the nature in which Marburg and Ebola spread, health workers are at a high risk of infection and, indeed, many die after contracting the disease from their patients.

People like Dr Matthew Lukwiya and many other health workers who died after contracting Ebola in their line of duty are unsung heroes whose contribution to the country’s capability in dealing with haemorrhagic fevers must always be remembered. Without their sacrifice, many more Ugandans would have died.

Therefore, as Uganda celebrates conquering the latest Marburg outbreak, let us pay tribute to our frontline soldiers, including those who have died in the war.

Source : The Observer

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