Uganda hailed for combating 2022 Ebola outbreak

KAMPALA - Uganda has been hailed for its efforts in successfully containing the Ebola virus following the outbreak from September 20, 2022, until January 2023.

Nine districts, Bunyangabu, Jinja, Kagadi, Kampala, Kassanda, Kyegegwa, Masaka, Mubende and Wakiso, were affected with over 160 infections and 77 fatalities.

During a session themed Unlocking the Power of Public Health Data in Africa: Learning for Action, participants commended Uganda for being able to control the spread of the virus in a relatively short time and preventing the spread to neighbouring countries.

Dr Justin Maeda from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) attributed the success to the power of data being used.

“You try to allow the general public to continue their livelihood and economic activities while the experts are working on the ground using the data to make sure that you control the spread of diseases without interfering with livelihood and any other social activity that is happening in the community,” Maeda said.

Steve Kisakye, the director and global head of Dalberg Implement in Tanzania, said “the Ebola response that Uganda took is something that makes them proud in the East African region as well as the African continent”.

The senior science officer at Africa CDC, Shingai Machingaidze, said their support also contributed to the containment of the Ebola virus in a record time.

“Africa CDC was able to help the Government of Uganda convene a high ministerial panel that allowed ministers of health from Uganda and all areas surrounding to meet, align and decide how they were going to work together. There was no immediate border closure, there wasn’t confusion about what was happening because the leaders came and met and there was a clear understanding of how everyone was going to work together,” Machingaidze said.

She explained that the Africa Ebola coordination task force which was set up, combined expertise from Africa CDC, Uganda’s ministry of health as well as many regional partners, adding that they collaborated and coordinated efforts, allowing everyone to work together which minimised duplication and allowed people to contribute in different areas, but in a coordinated way.

Vaccine trials

Speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing 5th edition of the African Health Agenda International Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, Dr Henry Kyobe, the national Ebola virus disease incident commander at the Ministry of Health, disclosed that Ebola vaccine trials will target health workers and special categories once the vaccines are approved.

Last year, Uganda received over 5,000 doses of Ebola trial vaccines for use in a trial against an outbreak of the Sudan strain of the virus.

He said that after failing to proceed with the earlier design of the “ring strategy” during the outbreak, they are now thinking of modifying the protocol to vaccinate using another approach.

A ring strategy is where all people who have come into contact with someone with a confirmed case of Ebola are given the vaccine.

Kyobe said that previously, they had planned to look at contacts from confirmed cases and would recruit and vaccinate them within 21 days of follow-up, and another category which is a control group to be vaccinated after 21 days.

The biennial conference is jointly convened by Amref Health Africa, Rwanda’s health ministry, the African Union and Africa CDC. It was convened under the theme Resilient Health Systems for Africa; Re-envisioning the Future Now.

Dr Richard Kabanda, the commissioner in charge of the health promotion, education, and communication department at the Ministry of Health, while presenting a paper, noted that Mubende which was the epicentre of the fifth outbreak of the Ebola Sudan virus in Uganda has more traditional healers than the number of health facilities in the district.

This, he said, indicates that people utilise herbalists as a source of healing beyond hospitals.

Kabanda said there is a need to orient herbalists on conditions that are beyond their scope so that they can advise people to seek medical care.

Source: New Vision