WHO bolsters Ebola disease outbreak response in Uganda

To scale up response to the Ebola disease outbreak in Uganda, World Health Organization (WHO) is delivering medical supplies, providing logistics and deploying staff to support Ugandan authorities in halting the spread of the virus, said a WHO official at a press conference on Thursday in Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of Congo.

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

Current evidence shows that ERVEBO vaccine, which is highly effective against the Zaire ebolavirus, the genus with the highest fatality rate, doesn’t provide cross protection against the Sudan ebolavirus. This increases the risks to health workers, according to Dr. Patrick Otim, health emergency officer of the Acute Events Management Unit of the WHO Regional Office for Africa.

“The previous vaccines that we had administered in a number of frontline health workers in Uganda and other countries neighboring DRC does not offer cross protection against the Sudan ebolavirus species. So, when you compare a health worker and some others in the community, definitely the health worker has a slightly elevated risk, because they are working in very close proximity to confirmed cases in treatment centers,” he said.

There are at least six candidate vaccines against Sudan ebolavirus which are in different stages of development. Three of them have Phase 1 data (safety and immunogenicity data in humans) and the remaining are in the preclinical evaluation phase, the regional office said.

The WHO has deployed a technical team to Mubende district to support surveillance, infection prevention and control and the management of cases.

The Organization is also assisting in the activation of surveillance structures in neighboring districts and is repurposing its country-based staff to bolster the response. In addition, five international experts will be deployed, with numbers increasing if needed, according to the regional office.

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