WHO Regional Director commends Uganda’s Ebola preparedness response

Kampala, 26 June 2019 – After assessing one of the high-risk districts for Ebola virus disease in western Uganda today, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, commended the corps of health workers and Health Ministry officials for their sharpened preparedness to respond to an outbreak.

Dr Moeti toured the Kasese border area with the Minister of Health of Uganda, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, who thanked WHO for the support the organization has provided both in preparing the country for Ebola and in responding to the recent confirmed cases.

“WHO has provided crucial support to Uganda in fighting Ebola,” said Dr Aceng. “I am glad to see how my teams on the ground have responded quickly and effectively.”

Since 11 June, when Uganda declared the Ebola virus disease outbreak, there have been three confirmed cases, all of whom had travelled to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Uganda shares a nearly 900-kilometre long, often porous border with the DRC, where the disease has claimed more than 1 400 lives since August 2018.

More than 100 people who had contacts with the confirmed cases are being monitored. Since the outbreak was declared, 1063 high-risk individuals have been vaccinated. This vaccination of contacts and contacts of contacts, known as ring vaccination, has shown good results in the DRC and other countries in West Africa.

There are currently no new, confirmed cases of Ebola in Uganda.

“I commend Uganda for its quick response to the Ebola outbreak,” Dr Moeti said. “During my visit to the Kasese area, I spoke with health authorities who told me how the training they had received in detecting the disease meant they were on high alert for patients with any signs of infection. They were able to move swiftly when the first Ebola cases arrived in their health facility and to restrict possible exposure to relatively few health workers.”

During her two-day visit, Dr Moeti travelled to Bwera Hospital, near the border with the DRC where two of the three people who had the infection had died. A further three suspected cases are being treated at the hospital. Due to its investment into preparedness, the hospital can now obtain presumptive results to tests for the Ebola Zaire strain within two hours.

With support from WHO and partners, Uganda has trained more than 16 000 community leaders and volunteers in remote border areas to spot the symptoms, provide medical attention to potential patients and to alert the authorities. The local teams serve as the eyes and ears of the district and national emergency systems that cover surveillance, infection prevention and control, patient care, cross-border activities and coordination with communities.

“People are aware of the problem, how to protect themselves and where to report for action and support,” Dr Moeti pointed out.
 

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