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World Health Organization (WHO) steps up response to Ebola outbreak in Uganda

In an accelerated effort to scale up the response to the Ebola virus disease outbreak in Uganda, the World Health Organization (WHO) is delivering medical supplies, providing logistics and deploying personnel to help national authorities halt the outbreak. spread of the virus.

So far, seven cases, including one death, have been confirmed to have contracted Ebola virus from Sudan – one of six species of the Ebolavirus genus. Forty-three contacts have been identified and 10 people suspected of having caught the virus are receiving treatment at the regional referral hospital in Mubende, the district where the disease was confirmed this week, making it the first time that the Uganda has detected the Ebola virus from Sudan since 2012. .

Mubende is in the central region of Uganda, about two hours drive from the capital Kampala and lies along a busy road leading to the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are gold mines in the area, which attract people from different parts of Uganda, as well as other countries. The mobile nature of the population in Mubende increases the risk of a possible spread of the virus.

WHO has deployed a technical team to Mubende district to support surveillance, infection prevention and control, and case management. The Organization is also helping to activate surveillance structures in neighboring districts and reassigning its country-based staff to strengthen the response. In addition, five international experts will be deployed, increasing their number if necessary.

“We are acting quickly and decisively to pull the reins of this outbreak. Our experts are already on the ground working with the experienced Ugandan Ebola teams to strengthen surveillance, diagnosis, treatment and preventive measures,” said Dr Abdou Salam Gueye, Regional Director of Emergencies at the Regional Office of WHO for Africa. “Strengthening Africa’s emergency preparedness is proving increasingly crucial in the fight against epidemics such as Ebola.”

Due to previous outbreaks in Uganda and the threat of importation of cases from the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo which has battled several outbreaks, WHO and the Ministry of Health have collaborated on numerous preparedness activities, the last exercise such having taken place in August 2022, where nine Ugandan clinicians were trained in the management of viral haemorrhagic fevers and are now working on the response.

WHO already has six viral haemorrhagic fever kits in Uganda, and one has been delivered to Mubende. Although no treatment specifically addresses Sudan Ebolavirus species, early identification of cases and treatment of symptoms greatly increases the chances of survival.

Current evidence shows that the ERVEBO vaccine, which is highly effective against Zaire Ebola virus, does not cross-protect against Sudan Ebola virus.

There are at least six candidate Sudan Ebolavirus vaccines that are in different stages of development. Three of them have Phase 1 data (safety and immunogenicity data in humans) and the others are in the preclinical evaluation phase.

The WHO Research and Development Plan team is in contact with all developers and is leading a collaborative effort involving international experts to determine which vaccine(s) may be suitable for further evaluation during this outbreak (and if doses meeting the required standards are available) if more cases are confirmed. A CORE protocol for their evaluation exists and WHO will discuss proposed next steps with Ugandan authorities to obtain their approval.

WHO today held a press conference moderated by Dr Patrick Otim, Health Emergencies Manager, Acute Events Management Unit, WHO Regional Office for Africa. He was joined by Dr. Kyobe Henry Bbosa, Ebola Incident Commander, Uganda Ministry of Health; Dr Ana Maria Henao-Restrepo, Co-Lead Research and Development Plan for Epidemics, WHO Health Emergencies Programme; and Dr. William A. Fischer II, director of emerging pathogens at the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases and assistant professor of medicine in the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine, University of North Carolina.

Distributed by APO Group for the WHO Regional Office for Africa.