EAC emphasises Ebola preparedness

THE East African Community Secretariat has urged partner states to enhance emergency preparedness and response activities following an outbreak of Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) in Uganda.

Health authorities in Uganda have declared an outbreak of Ebola after a case of the Sudan Ebola virus was confirmed in Mubende District in the Central part of the country.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), as of September 25th this year, there were five confirmed deaths and a total of 18 confirmed and 18 probable cases.

The EAC statement came hardly a day after Tanzania’s health authorities had already resolved to intensify the epidemic preparedness in all regions by strengthening the Rapid Response Team at all levels, including conducting capacity building training.

Minister for Health Ms Ummy Mwalimu has also directed every Regional Commissioner to prepare a contingency plan to control the epidemic among other measures.

Speaking on the outbreak, EAC Council to the Community (CTC) and Acting Deputy Secretary General for Productive and Social Sectors, Dr Anthony Kafumbe also emphasised the commitment of the EAC Secretariat to the region, adding that, the Secretariat will work together with partner states to coordinate emergency preparedness and response activities across the region.

He urged partner states to “enhance surveillance and laboratory testing especially at border areas, to implement appropriate infection prevention and control measures and increase risk communication and community awareness of the disease.

Dr Kafumbe further asked partner states to consider the deployment of the EAC mobile laboratories to the strategic outbreak hotspots and at the various border points of entry.

“This shall enhance screening of the suspected cases as these mobile laboratories have the capabilities to handle such level 3 and 4 pathogens,” he said.

There have been seven previous outbreaks of the Sudan ebolavirus, with four occurring in Uganda and three in Sudan. Uganda last reported an outbreak of Sudan ebolavirus in 2012.

In 2019, the country experienced an outbreak of Zaire ebolavirus, crossing from the North-Eastern Region of the neighbouring DRCongo.

In addition to the trained technical experts, the deployment of the EAC mobile laboratories to Kisoro in the Western Region of Uganda also played an important role in the rapid response in the country.

The WHO has expressed optimism in Uganda’s ability to tackle the epidemic and is helping Ugandan health authorities with the investigation and deploying staff to the affected area.

“Uganda is no stranger to effective Ebola control. Thanks to its expertise, action has been taken quickly to detect the virus and we can bank on this knowledge to halt the spread of infections,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

Ebola is a severe, often fatal illness affecting humans and other primates.

The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola, and objects that have been contaminated with body fluids like blood, faeces and vomit from a person sick with Ebola or the body of a person who died from Ebola.

The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50 per cent. However, case fatality rates have varied from 25  to 90 per cent in past outbreaks. Ebola has six different species, three of which (Bundibugyo, Sudan and Zaire) have previously caused large outbreaks.

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